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The persevering existence of On Kawara

Mar 12, 2015

The persevering existence of On Kawara

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Last summer, the Japanese conceptual artist On Kawara passed away at age 81. Having lived in New York since 1965, it is unsurprising that the Guggenheim honors Kawara with the first comprehensive retrospective of his work — an exhibition that Kawara himself helped organize. ...

Masaru Iwai digs the dirt on cleanliness

Mar 12, 2015

Masaru Iwai digs the dirt on cleanliness

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Masaru Iwai, a Ph.D. graduate from Tokyo University of Arts, tells me that he only showers once every two days. This fact causes the two gallery directors in the room to gasp in horror. In an ill-advised moment of sharing I let slip that ...

Parasophia to take Kyoto into the now

Mar 5, 2015

Parasophia to take Kyoto into the now

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What goes through your head when you look at contemporary art? Standing in front of, say, Damien Hirst’s shark in formaldehyde (“Is this art or taxidermy?”), Tracey Emin’s bed (“Anybody could do that”), Jeff Koon’s giant balloon-like poodles (“Kitsch,” or “preemptive kitsch,” as one ...

The flickering of Japan's contemporary art

Mar 5, 2015

The flickering of Japan's contemporary art

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Art used to be about what you could see, but now, thanks to a more “conceptual” approach, it is often about what cannot be seen. Except the artist still has to demonstrate in some way what it is that can’t be seen — in ...

Imagery that sings the praises of the musical

Mar 5, 2015

Imagery that sings the praises of the musical

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“They’re Wooin’ and Doin’ the Things Boys and Girls Like to Do . . . .” This is the message of many of the posters made for Hollywood musicals currently being exhibited at the National Film Center in Tokyo. Liza Minnelli, Mitzi Gaynor and ...

Video artist Duncan Campbell sees between the lines

Feb 27, 2015

Video artist Duncan Campbell sees between the lines

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When Irish artist Duncan Campbell won the Turner Prize last December, it was met with both high praise and criticism, as often happens with the notoriously controversial event. But perhaps such a difference in perception is appropriate. Campbell’s 54-minute film “It for Others” explores ...

Nihonga didn't ignore the West

Feb 26, 2015

Nihonga didn't ignore the West

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From the early 1880s, painting in Japan became bisected. Yōga was used to categorize works in oils that were inspired by European painting movements and nihonga became the umbrella term for a whole array of earlier Japanese painting traditions that were later modernized. The ...

Gabriel Orozco's connections with Japan

Feb 26, 2015

Gabriel Orozco's connections with Japan

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The photographer and I have been waiting for about half an hour to interview Gabriel Orozco. It’s a little disappointing, but that’s OK. Orozco has famously made disappointment part of his creative practice. While waiting we chat about how much we have been impressed ...

The peak that can move mountains

Feb 19, 2015

The peak that can move mountains

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The current show, ‘Fuji Paradigms: Visions of Mt. Fuji,’ at the Izu Photo Museum is in two parts. One is an amalgamation of images in varied formats that depict Mount Fuji as a national symbol, and the other is a tightly focused collection that ...

Neo-impressionism: color-coded familiarities

Feb 19, 2015

Neo-impressionism: color-coded familiarities

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The term “neo-impressionism” suggests a sequel to impressionism and, just like with movie sequels, there is a faint lowering of expectations. But this is entirely the wrong way to approach “Neo-Impressionism: from Light to Color” at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art. Some visitors ...

How art deco stripped nudity of eroticism

Feb 12, 2015

How art deco stripped nudity of eroticism

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When the Teien Museum of Art reopened late last year, after a period of refurbishment and expansion, the exhibition held was no real test for either the main building or the newly added annex. The art of Rei Naito was so minimalist that it ...