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John L. Tran
For John L. Tran's latest contributions to The Japan Times, see below:
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jun 14, 2016
Three artists wondering in the darkness
Hajime Sawatari is 76 and alone. He's technically still married, but found that photography and chasing skirt didn't sit well with being in a monogamous relationship.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Apr 23, 2016
'Hiroshi Sugimoto: Black Box' ponders representations of representations
"Black Box" is the most recent publication of works by Japanese photographer Hiroshi Sugimoto. It spans the entirety of his artistic career, from the natural history "Dioramas" of the 1970s to his recent "Lightning Fields" series. It also includes a wide-ranging discussion between Sugimoto and curator...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Apr 12, 2016
An exhibition of things that make you go 'hmm'
The subtitle of the Mori Art Museum's triennial "Roppongi Crossing" exhibition three years ago was "Out of Doubt." This year it's "My Body, Your Voice." In 2013, the group show was inflected by the destruction caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, and scepticism about the handling...
Japan Times
LIFE / Style & Design
Mar 17, 2016
Issey Miyake invites us to see his material world
Issey Miyake, designer of some of the world's most distinctive clothing and international symbol of modern Japanese craftsmanship, received France's Legion of Honor on Tuesday at the opening of a major exhibition of his work at The National Art Center, Tokyo.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Mar 15, 2016
Looking forward through photography
The spectacular landscapes left by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami have been used as source material by photographers to an extraordinary degree. Yes, using the words "spectacular" and "landscape" here may seem indecent, but this is one of many difficult issues that arise when photography...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Mar 8, 2016
Fujiwara wants the dirt to stick
White often seems to be used in contemporary art in Japan as a kind of short cut to signify "beauty," "purity" or "spirituality." Simon Fujiwara's show "White Day" at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery is, as the title suggests, overwhelmingly white, but it's designed not to stay that way.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Mar 1, 2016
Annie Leibovitz: Looking at the smaller picture
By way of introducing herself at the press preview of her new touring exhibition, "Women: New Portraits," Annie Leibovitz says, "I love photography so much."
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 16, 2016
Takashi Murakami collects more than just his thoughts
"Takashi Murakami's Superflat Collection" is an exhibition of other people's work, amassed as the result of one man's phenomenally successful artistic career. It's evidence that Murakami must have done something right, or wrong, depending on your view of culture. He's sometimes portrayed as a kind of...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 2, 2016
Japan's picture ID before World War II
Last year, the number of tourists coming into Japan outnumbered those going out for the first time in 45 years. In absolute terms, it may be the first time that tourism has properly taken off for this country, despite numerous attempts by various ministries and semi-official agencies over the years to...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 19, 2016
These may not be the photographs that you are looking for
"Star Wars" is like an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 12, 2016
Idem Paris: Worlds apart and yet so close
Before photography became a relatively affordable pastime at the beginning of the 20th century, lithographic prints were touted as the democratic image-making medium that could reach all classes of society. At the same time, because the design was drawn directly onto stone, it could be used as a platform...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 5, 2016
On the funny side of the universe
John Wood and Paul Harrison's show "Some Things Are Hard to Explain" is proving to be a big hit at the NTT Intercommunication Center. The artists' wry, tongue-in-cheek videos, drawings and animations are intentionally gormless and genuinely thought-provoking at the same time.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 29, 2015
Gain the courage to scream with Yoko Ono
The conceit of "From My Window" — an exhibition that covers Yoko Ono as a conceptual artist from the 1950s onwards — is to focus on her connection with Tokyo. Since it's at the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art, maybe that's to be expected, but this does not necessarily jibe well...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 29, 2015
Laurent Grasso alludes to a future in our past
A funny thing happened on the way to "Le Forum." Outside Ochanomizu Station, a small group of neo-Nazis had set up shop and were playing the Japanese national anthem. One of them was wearing a modified SS uniform and proudly let me take his picture. I noticed that his jack boots and Sam Browne belt were...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 1, 2015
There is a lot going on behind the closed doors of shunga
Japan's first major shunga (literally, "spring pictures") exhibition of erotic paintings and woodblock prints, is surprisingly hard work. As a venue for a ground-breaking assembly of images, which probably would not have been shown publicly if it were not for a highly successful shunga exhibition at...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 17, 2015
Chen Wei's small world of the bigger issues
In Chen Wei's moody night scenes, the party's over and everyone has gone home. A couple of disco balls have crashed to the floor looking like globes of planets built and populated by robots. In two other images, empty imported and native Chinese beer bottles mix listlessly around a bar top, and the neon...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 10, 2015
A photo finish between ukiyo-e and the camera
The idea for the smart, complex and challenging exhibition "From Ukiyo-e to Photography" at the Edo-Tokyo Museum started from the discovery of two images. One is a photograph of the Meiji-Era (1867-1912) Minister of Home Affairs Toshimichi Okubo, taken in Paris in 1878. The second is a color ukiyo-e...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 3, 2015
Deutsche Bank sets the right standard
There is an image in the Deutsche Bank Collection exhibition at the Hara Museum that, at first sight, seems slightly out of place. It is a street scene in New York that glows in the warm light of a sunset. Office workers can be seen going home, a man window-shops outside a camera store, even the inclusion...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 6, 2015
Hiroshi Hamaya: images of an inner war
Most active in the mid-20th century, the photographer Hiroshi Hamaya (1915-99) is best known for his folkloric images of rural life in Niigata Prefecture — images that some consider to be symbolic of his passive resistance to militarism, but for more critical voices are advocacy of a retrograde cultural...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 15, 2015
When it comes to art, individuality rises above nationality
In the context of the current debate over Article 9 of Japan's Constitution, the "Artist File 2015" show of up-and-coming contemporary artists at The National Art Center, Tokyo, is tantamount to a declaration of peace. The remit of this annual event is to showcase "some of the freshest and most substantial...

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