Tokyo’s galleries have woken from their summer slumbers — or, more likely, beach naps — with a vengeance. The current wave of openings started out in the east, at the complex of galleries in Kiyosumi, with shows that are set to close this Saturday (two were reviewed here this month).
Now, Tokyo Wonder Site Shibuya, supported by the municipal government, is showing an exhibition from their artists-in-residence. One, American artist Marina Kappos, has been working since spring in TWS’s Aoyama studio on a project inspired by her stay in Japan.
Kappos has covered two of the walls in TWS’s main gallery with bright and blocky paintings that capture many of the features of the city and its culture that are striking on first encounter, but then slowly settle into the back of your mind. Seemingly simple, the more you look the more you see the many elements of the Japan we live in — apartment blocks, overloaded telephone poles, the old mixed with the new.
The painting is concise and sometimes looks as if it is made up of shapes applied as stickers or carved out of sheets of colored adhesive. Though this can give it the feel of illustration at times, as installed in the TWS gallery, it rewards longer contemplation.
Upstairs at TWS is a South Korean video of a Sci-Fi style mystery set in Shanghai and objects related to the film. The project was done by JNP Production — made up of Jo Seub, Noh Jaeoon and Park Chankyong — who showed an earlier piece about Shanghai and Seoul at the 2006 Gwanju Biennale in South Korea. Also artists-in-residence, JNP were here making a similar video from their impressions of their time in Tokyo.
At Nishi-Shinjuku’s Wako Works of Art, painter Takeshi Masada is presenting his first solo exhibition at the gallery. Masada has a great style, something like Impressionism freed of its more precise cousin Pointillism, with rhythmic but irregularly sized rough brush strokes creating seemingly detailed images that are clearly recognizable.
For his subjects, Masada has chosen scenes from horror movies and anthropological studies, which do add a mysterious depth to the pieces. But their sources are also easily identifiable — that’s a zombie, that’s Big Foot, that’s an aboriginal — making the paintings a little kitschy. If he hides his source material deeper, then he’ll have even stronger works.
As they stand, they accomplish what he wants. The images of terror are things he doesn’t know how to understand — everyone will interpret them differently — which is how he wants viewers to interpret the canvases, said Wako’s Yukari Hagiwara at the opening on Sept. 15. With such an assured style of painting, and a taste for the mysterious, another solo show will be great to see.
The same night Nanzuka Underground in Shibuya was showing more works by Hiroki Tsukuda in “Visionary Sensibility” — a confident title if ever there was one. Nanzuka also presented Tsukuda’s works at the recently opened Diesel Gallery in Minami-Aoyama, Tokyo (showing till Nov. 18).
Tsukuda must have been sitting on a stockpile of works, as he has a lot showing. In Nanzuka’s front room are sculptures, similar to the ones at Diesel that play on the woodland creature/human as cyborg, as if 1970’s Star Wars-era costume design had finally made it to the gallery. The large, mixed-media paintings are more eye-catching. They typically include colored transparencies above jumbled paintings on the canvas.
It’s as if you were looking at overlayed stills from the video log of a particularly active time machine — 1950s Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired Japanese suburban houses act as the backdrop for shield-bearing Roman centurions, technological gadgetry and prehistoric beasts. There is so much you can pull out of the images that your eye darts around trying to bring the subjects into some agreement. Which is impossible — but the compositions, including the overlays, work together as a whole.
With all the 2-D work being shown, then, where are the installations? It must simply be easier, despite the rise of 3-D works, to stick with what you can stack after you’ve taken it off the wall.
One notable exception is musician Ryuichi Sakamoto and cinematographer Shiro Takatani’s new piece at the NTT ICC space in Tokyo Opera City.
The two have collaborated on a grid of nine tanks of water suspended from the ceiling, into which Takatani projects ambient film accompanied by a soundtrack by Sakamoto, a member of Yellow Magic Orchestra. The projections seemingly have a beginning and an end, with intermittent crescendos, but the most striking part of the piece is the audience.
Entering the darkened space through heavy curtains, the first thing I noticed were piles of people clustered under the glowing light of the tanks — nine clusters — with others cautiously drifting through, looking up and down. It is an odd experience to spend silent moments lying on the ground with strangers, knowing each is trying to figure out the what-for of the piece, or falling easily into some strange groove with it.
If anything, it heralds a cool winter. But before that comes, the recent spate of openings is a welcome start to the city’s fall cultural season.
“Marina Kappos JNP Production + Bosco Sodi” is showing at Tokyo Wonder Site Shibuya till Nov. 25 ( 3463-0603). “Takeshi Masada: New paintings” is at Wako Works of Art, Nishi-Shinjuku till Oct. 13 ( 3373-2860). “Hiroki Tsukuda: Visionary Sensibility” is at Nanzuka Underground, Shibuya till Oct. 14 ( 3400-0075).”Ryuichi Sakamoto x Shiro Takatani: LIFE — fluid, invisible, inaudible . . .” is at NTT Inter Communication Center, Nishi-Shinjuku till Nov. 4 ( 144199). All shows in Tokyo.
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