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Viewed as mere pictures in a catalogue or newspaper, the works of Hiroji Noda may not impress. With their often vaguely organic shapes, they may even seem like pseudo naive fabric designs. But the blocks of often smudgy-looking color and the rough-edged simplistic shapes that you see in the print media hardly do this artist justice. On the basis of such reproductions, you might well wonder why he is considered one of Japan’s leading contemporary artists. But that’s why it’s sometimes important to see art in museums and galleries.

Viewed face-to-face at an exhibition such as the major retrospective of his work now underway at the National Art Center Tokyo, it is quite a different story. Under these conditions, his art becomes something much more epic, turbulent, and dynamic, because Noda is an artist who has wrestled vigorously and manfully with the material aspects of his art, and the signs of this struggle are only tangible to those who encounter the actual works.

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