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C.B. Liddell
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 14, 2013
Driven to shoot on the frontlines
The camera never lies — or does it? The double-barreled exhibition now on at the Yokohama Museum of Art suggests that it doesn't always tell the truth either.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 7, 2013
Is this the art of noise?
If art is something that you want to feel comfortable with in your home, then Haroon Mirza is probably not your man. As the winner of the 2012 Daiwa Foundation Art Prize, British-born, ethnic-Pakistani artist Mirza is being introduced to Tokyo's art connoisseurs with a show at SCAI THE BATHHOUSE.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 31, 2013
Hidden truths laid bare in the details of realism
With a population of around 35 million, Greater Tokyo is the ultimate "modernist" conurbation; a vast megacity, where something as old-fashioned as realist art might seem out-of-date and out-of-place. Maybe so, but on the metropolis' western and eastern extremities stand two museums that, each in their...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 23, 2013
Humble origins of great architectural photography
The last couple of shows at the Shiodome Museum have been colorful and varied affairs, but the latest exhibition, showcasing Yukio Futagawa's photos of traditional Japanese houses taken in 1955, strikes a very different note. There is an absence of color and accompanying objects, and in its place a sense...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 17, 2013
Hakuin: The sight of one hand clapping
Most people know the famous riddle, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Many are also aware that it is connected with Zen Buddhism, and some will even know that it is a famous koan by the 18th-century monk Hakuin.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 10, 2013
Situations that end up spoiling the artistic landscape
Imagine you went to a movie theatre that insisted on doing anything other than showing you an actual movie, or to a restaurant where the waiter did all he could to stop you having an actual meal. This is a situation I sometimes find myself in when visiting art museums, especially if it is a show of contemporary...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 3, 2013
Visions that leave little to the imagination
Art can sometimes be surprisingly serious and po-faced, almost as if it were seen as a kind of substitute religion. Luckily, none of this pomposity attaches itself to the work of Sasae Ono, one of Japan's most talented artists in the 20th-century, and the subject of the exhibition "Ono Sasae: Modern...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 20, 2012
Show of hands for the National Museum of Western Art
Sometimes it seems that hands have a mind of their own. They remember where the keys are on a keyboard and which brushstroke in a Chinese character comes next, without too much conscious input from the brain. The instinctive way they work can also give a lot of art its style.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 13, 2012
Nature that goes beyond its course
The easiest way to describe this exhibition is "The meeting of two Mets," with the Metropolitan Museum of Art Tokyo serving as a venue for 133 works from its much more renowned New York version, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, known simply as "The Met."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 6, 2012
What lies behind Ben Shahn's lines of the times
When an artist feels compelled to incorporate words and poetry into many of his artworks, we get a sense that he may have taken up the wrong profession. This feeling of being unsettled in his art is something that comes up again and again with the career of the left-wing 20th-century American artist...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 8, 2012
Communion with the spirits of wood
When you first encounter the sculptures of Koji Tanada, you might get the initial impression that he's being facetious or whimsical, and assume that his sculptures are all part of an elaborate practical joke, designed to drive home some droll but not very profound point. And why not? After all, this...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 1, 2012
Run away to Paris with Rouault's circus
Paris in its heyday — between one set of Germans marching in (1871) and another (1940) — is one of those fabled cities that exists forever in the human consciousness; one that is often prefixed with the word "gay," in its earlier and truer sense. Any exhibition that manages to evoke this...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 25, 2012
History that lingers in photography
There is an unseen hand behind The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art's latest exhibition, "The Angel of History." On the surface, this is an eclectic, almost random mix of avant-garde photography that spans the last 80 years and includes the work of Man Ray, Diane Arbus, Christian Boltanski, Robert Mapplethorpe...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 18, 2012
From the low key comes high art
The Mitsubishi Ichigokan Museum is deceptive in more ways than one. Not only is it a lot younger than it looks — it was built in 2009 as a recreation of a Meiji Era building — but the interior doesn't quite match the exterior. The latter looks somewhat grand and even slightly palatial, but...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 12, 2012
Treasures from China's rich tapestry of cultures
"China" has always been something of a simplification. This is because it is an idea that has been used to encapsulate a vast heterogeneous portion of the World's population. With current relations with Japan tense, the idea of China as a monolithic giant with a single purpose, bringing its weight to...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 11, 2012
The princely state of Liechtenstein's collection
Liechtenstein is the kind of place that philatelists and tax lawyers know best. Although an insignificant dot on the map, it has its own set of stamps and its small size allows it to offer tax advantages to thousands of holding companies. The latest exhibition at the National Art Center Tokyo (NACT)...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 4, 2012
Drawing a bead on functional items as 'art work'
There is an idea common today that almost anything can be "art." This probably has something to do with a certain Frenchman who exhibited a urinal as an "artwork" many moons ago; not to mention more recent absurdities. But, despite the looseness of the "art" category, there are occasions when it resists...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 27, 2012
The fabric of Okinawa design
With the typical "white box" museum, everything depends on the contents of the exhibition, but with the Mingeikan (The Japan Folk Crafts Museum), the museum itself is very much part of the experience. This is clear from the moment you slide open the entrance door and take off your shoes to shuffle around...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 6, 2012
Reading between the lines of realism
Nineteenth century Russia is far better known for its composers and writers than for its artists. While the likes of Tchaikovsky, Dostoyevsky, and Tolstoy have a global resonance, the most famous Russian painters of the period remain internationally obscure. But this state of affairs is starting to change...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Aug 23, 2012
The Khitans: from Mongolic tribe to rulers of an empire
When I visited "The Splendor of the Khitan Dynasty" at the University Art Museum, Tokyo, I got a funny feeling that Japan somehow wanted to preserve good diplomatic relations with this mighty Empire. This makes perfectly good sense given this state's great military strength and strategic position in...

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