The current special exhibition at the Yokohama Museum of Art deftly achieves two goals dear to public institutions everywhere: it educates the public — and does so on a shoestring budget.

“And or Versus?: Adventures in Images” is an exhibition of Surrealist and contemporary works drawn from the museum’s 7,800-item collection. With this many artworks to choose from, it’s no wonder the 61 highlighted pieces succeed in rousing interest in contemporary art and make visitors think twice about what they take for granted as “reality.”

On show are works including Rene Magritte’s “Fountain of Juvenescence” (1957-58), Salvador Dali’s “Fantastic Landscape — Dawn, Heroic Noon, Evening” (1942). Also featured are works by such well-known Japanese artists as Yayoi Kusama and Isamu Noguchi, as well as a host of lesser-known but fascinating pieces.

Opening the exhibition and the first section, titled “Panoramic World,” is Rojin Matsuki’s “Landscape Dotted With Paintings” (1991), a Surrealist depiction of the Minato Mirai district where the museum is located. Rather than looking back at Yokohama’s past as a port town, it anticipates the city’s dynamic future as a cultural center.

Matsuki includes “visual quotes” of famous artworks, including portraits by Piero della Francesca (ca. 1474-75), Magritte’s “The Man in the Bowler Hat” (1964), Seiji Togo’s “Promenade Surrealiste” (1929), Gyosyu Hayami’s “Dancing Flames” (1925), Pablo Picasso’s “La Vie” (1903) and Odilon Redon’s “Vase de fleurs” (date unknown).

This use of art to dislocate or problematize reality continues through the second and third sections of the exhibition, titled “Atomic World” and “Virtual Reality World.”

For example, two 1991 pieces by Yukinori Yanagi caricature the Japanese national flag, the Hinomaru, constructing a critique of regimented conformity in Japanese society.

In one piece, “Hinomaru,” the artist has created the central red sun by impressing numerous hanko (personal seals) on washi (Japanese paper). In the other, “Banzai Corner,” the artist has erected tiny, red plastic Ultraman and Ultra Seven robot toys shoulder to shoulder concentrically to form a fan shape in front of two mirrors erected at a 90-degree angle to each other. The robot toys and their images in the mirrors form a red circle, again echoing the Hinomaru.

Many of the contemporary art exhibits, including part of Andy Warhol’s “Flash” series of photographs relating to the 1963 assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, are a reminder that we unthinkingly tend to equate images supplied by the mass media with reality. The viewer is challenged to go beyond the images and delve into the underlying reality.

Cultural conventions, too, are disrupted. In his series of parodies of “The Crucifixion” (painted in 1502 by Lucas Cranach the Elder) Yasumasa Morimura replaces the figures of Bible history — the crucified Christ, Mary and the disciple John — with various substitute figures, such as Rika-chan dolls, or even the artist himself. The artist’s presence in the works — which are on a monumental scale, each one being 2.5 × 3.5 meters — represents his effort to express his relationship to the event.

The exhibits in the fourth section, “Pinhole World,” are a reminder that something unusual or interesting may be hidden in scenes of daily life, as in Tomoko Isoda’s photographs of a tunnel photographed from a subway train car, titled “Afterimage.”

“And or Versus?: Adventures in Images,” more than lives up to its name, offering visitors the chance to step out of the everyday world and view life from a different angle.

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