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John L. Tran
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 5, 2015
When nostalgia entangles with an unsettling past
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 do a two-person...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Books
Jan 24, 2015
Hiroshi Sugimoto: On the Beach
Hiroshi Sugimoto's photography is mesmerizing partly because of its other-worldly perfection — his black-and-white prints are flawless. On its own, however, this isn't enough to justify the significance of his work in the contemporary art scene. His deadpan images of animal dioramas, waxwork figures...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 8, 2015
Keeping up with the shifting world
Designers can be an ambitious bunch, hoping to lead us all into a better, color-coordinated, minimalist future. "The Fab Mind" aims to show off attempts "to understand and to resolve social issues through design'," based upon the earth-shattering notions that the world is in the midst of change, and...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 18, 2014
The man who turned his modernist home into an art museum
It's not all roses being the director of an independent art museum, but for Toshio Hara, the human interaction of the art world is still a more attractive prospect than that of being a businessman. In 1979 he turned the family seat — a small cluster of white modernist buildings in a quiet residential...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Dec 11, 2014
Still photography that will always remain moving
In the late 1950s, after having studied law and while pursuing a masters degree in art history, Ikko Narahara took two series of images that depicted groups of people at the extreme edges of society. One was of a woman's prison in Wakayama Prefecture and the other a Trappist monastery in Hokkaido. These...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Nov 13, 2014
Singing to quite a different tune
In the sense that "The Sound of Music" is not considered a reliable source for lessons about Nazism or that "My Fair Lady" is a profound analysis of class struggle, musicals do not generally spring to mind when considering the great achievements of French cinema. However, the National Film Center exhibition...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 30, 2014
Looking back to 1964 as Japan envisions 2020
"In Yedo, nothing is so common as to hear the citizens lament the times that have only just come to an end." So ran one editorial of "The Far East," an English-language periodical published in Japan in the 1870s.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 23, 2014
Lee Mingwei likes getting to know you
The secret to a good public relations interview? Switch on the voice recorder and ask questions — that is all you need to know. Except, of course, it's not. Usually the interviewee has a particular image to maintain and the interviewer is looking for something that hasn't already been said — incompatible...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 9, 2014
Gronsky's detached fascination
Alexander Gronsky is slightly surprised at his own success. Standing outside the warehouse building that is hosting a joint reception for several artists, including Thomas Ruff, he chain smokes a couple of cigarettes while we chat about doing photography during a typhoon, and how nobody in the Tokyo...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Oct 2, 2014
Nothing goes out of fashion quite like the future
Vincent Fournier's exhibition at the Diesel Art Gallery shows a love and fascination with technology, but it is not a straightforward adoration. The French photographer combines this with an impish sense of humor and also brings a sociologist's view to his subjects, which are portrayed with luscious...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Sep 4, 2014
Between darkness and light
In the days just after the Great East Japan Earthquake, photographers, videographers and the mass media were, quite understandably, not that welcome inside the disaster zone. As time went on and survivors faced the task of dealing with the aftermath, contact with the outside world became increasingly...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Aug 28, 2014
Artist takes a jab at social identity
What will it take to save the world? If you visit Maison Hermes Le Forum in Ginza in the next few weeks, artist Tsuneko Taniuchi — in the guise of Ninja Girl, wearing a flower in her hair and with a toy M16 rifle tucked in her belt — will ask you to respond to this question, and you may be...
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 31, 2014
No words can describe Tan's 'Terminology'
'As a visual artist it's very important to reach a point where I'm going beyond words. In interviews I find myself struggling, because we're always talking around (the work), circumscribing it. A question that I hate is 'what does this work mean?'' Fiona Tan
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jul 18, 2014
Contemporary art is not lost in space
While space art is a relatively small field — in which works that have actually been created in space is an even smaller subset — it can only become more commonplace as costs fall and the private sector promises to open up space travel to non-specialists, albeit very wealthy ones.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jun 25, 2014
Kids' stuff that adults need to see
Perhaps in the wake of this attack on seriousness, many artists have since taken refuge in childishness, whimsy or playfulness, though these values have been carefully rationed in 'Go-Betweens: The World Seen through Children,' with the emphasis being more on showing childhood as a state of vulnerability and transformation.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jun 4, 2014
Tokihiro Sato: A breath of fresh photography
Using a penlight at night and a mirror during the day, the photographs in Tokihiro Sato's 'Photo-Respiration' series show trails or spots of light in darkened landscapes, of which probably the most audacious are scenes of central Tokyo.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
May 21, 2014
Naonori Oshima: What you see is less than what you actually get
'ON Harmonic Balance' is a dark, claustrophobic collection of images that, although they illustrate many of the tropes that are often associated with the snapshot aesthetic, come across as guileless and unforced.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Apr 2, 2014
The limitations of a medium can also be its artistic freedom
New work by the young photographer Yusuke Takeda shows how a mechanical limitation of digital cameras can be turned into a positive feature.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Feb 5, 2014
Searching for life's little miracles
Harumichi Saito's 'Treasures' is an exhibition that aims to be life affirming, particularly for those people considered outside the mainstream in term of physical abilities.
Japan Times
CULTURE / Art
Jan 29, 2014
It’s ‘otherness’ that helps define ‘self’
For better or worse, in contemporary art it is common to see male photographers tend toward featuring landscapes and objects, and female photographers working on problems of shifting identities, family and the body. In this respect there is a strong lineage for Ayaka Yamamoto's first Tokyo solo exhibition...

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