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When nostalgia entangles with an unsettling past

Feb 5, 2015

When nostalgia entangles with an unsettling past

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When Koichi Watari, the director of the Watari Museum of Contemporary Art contacted Yoshitomo Nara to organize a solo exhibition of his work, the artist was traveling around Hokkaido and Sakhalin with photographer and hard-core explorer Naoki Ishikawa. Nara suggested to Watari that they ...

Message trumps the medium at JMAF

Feb 5, 2015

Message trumps the medium at JMAF

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When Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “The medium is the message” in the mid-1960s, the ensuing dialogue on media theory encouraged an approach that persists to the present day: to examine new types of technology through the societal and cultural changes that ...

Art is long, when life can be short

Jan 29, 2015

Art is long, when life can be short

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Given Japan’s continual seismic activity, what happened at 5:46 a.m. on Jan. 17, 1995, was unavoidable. The devastation and loss of life that occurred with the magnitude 7.3 quake in Kansai became a yardstick only now surpassed by the Great East Japan Earthquake of ...

Where Buddhism and Shintoism meet

Jan 22, 2015

Where Buddhism and Shintoism meet

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Works from the Tendai Buddhist Gakuenji temple in Shimane Prefecture form the feature exhibition of Kyoto National Museum’s New Year’s show. Tradition tells that the priest Chishun established Gakuenji around the time of the Empress Suiko (554-628) though centuries passed before it was first ...

Jiro Oyamada's dark side exposes his highlights

Jan 22, 2015

Jiro Oyamada's dark side exposes his highlights

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When it comes to selecting “tortured artists” — those driven to create from the deep wells of their souls by immense suffering — the 20th-century Japanese painter Jiro Oyamada must seem like a shoo-in. The Fuchu Art Museum, in the western suburbs of Tokyo, ...

Whistler: The misunderstood artistic rebel

Jan 15, 2015

Whistler: The misunderstood artistic rebel

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Though his paintings may not look radical to us today, in his time, James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) often faced incomprehension — both through interpretations of his art and his own uncompromising stance toward it. Museumgoers in Japan now have a rare opportunity to decide ...

Offbeat satire that finds the bizarre in the banal

Jan 15, 2015

Offbeat satire that finds the bizarre in the banal

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Sometimes the pen really is mightier than the sword — not only when it is deployed to capture in words the loftiest philosophical ruminations, but also when, through pictures, it causes heroes to tremble and fall. For skilled satirists, trenchant humor is a potent ...

Code + culture: New Internet artists from Japan

Jan 10, 2015

Code + culture: New Internet artists from Japan

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If the Internet is an ocean, why do we spend so much time floating on its surface? What’s really going on down there? Not just in the deepest, darkest trenches, but among the forgotten protocols, faulty algorithms and emerging parameters outside the busy shipping ...

There's method in artistic 'madness'

Jan 8, 2015

There's method in artistic 'madness'

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Jiro Takamatsu is not easy to understand. He was an idiosyncratic avant-garde artist who worked with a variety of materials to create arcane art that expressed philosophical ideas. This is immediately off-putting to some and intriguing to others. However, the exhibition “Takamatsu Jiro: Mysteries” ...