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Let’s face it, there really is nothing like the face. Lovers dream of faces, poets stretch and struggle to juggle the words so that they might capture and communicate a countenance. Even businesspeople, the ultimate pragmatists, will travel across towns or oceans — when a telephone or e-mail could serve to exchange the same information — in order to meet face-to-face.

In contemporary culture, faces are mediated principally through the pervasive print and electronic media. Against this backdrop, South African-born, Dutch-based Marlene Dumas, 53, employs a decidedly painterly style to represent rather than reproduce the face. “Broken White,” her current exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (MoT), comprises some 250 works, mostly portraits in oil on canvas, or charcoal, diffused watercolor or Indian ink on paper.

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