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In the late 1960s, the mono-ha (school of things) movement arose from the Japanese art-school scene, with the Korean-born artist Lee Ufan — who went from the philosophy department at Nihon University to teaching at Tama Art University — as its most renowned proponent. Using raw materials and with a minimal level of manipulation, mono-ha styled itself as anti-representational, with an implied opposition to mimesis as a “Western” art tradition. Rather than focusing on the form and value of the art object, the emphasis was on understanding existence and the relation between matter, its environment and human consciousness.

A few mono-ha works, such as a Jiro Takamatsu’s “Oneness of Wood,” which challenges us to comprehend whether a wooden block filled with wood chips taken from itself has fundamentally changed as a substance, are included in “Things: Rethinking Japanese Photography and Art in 1970s.” Another piece, “Push Up” by Lee Ufan — a sheet of paper marked by a grid of rough holes tinged with sumi ink — exemplifies the artist’s interest in abstract expressionism, minimalism and the physical properties of different materials.

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