“Kyoto Art For Tomorrow” at The Museum of Kyoto draws together single pieces by 43 up-and-coming artists under the age of 40. Focusing on a new generation, the exhibition looks forward to the international attention Japan will receive for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Indeed, the show adopts Pierre de Coubertin words, the so-called father of the modern Olympics, who called it “the wedding of sport and art.”
The exhibit’s main draw is a new animation by Japan’s 2011 Venice Biennale representative, Tabaimo. Her surrealist-type shorts often deal with partitioning and discontinuities, though there are continuities of motif such as her collaged plants, body organs and her use of the dollhouse as a metaphor for the body and mind. “Inner-net” begins by zooming through enclosing gates to arrive in a grand European-style interior that acts as a stage backdrop before which things are literally dropped in — a chair that sprouts mushrooms, a birthday cake that attracts flies, and ghoulish white wigs that settle upon brain stems. Tabaimo is often seen as representing the forgotten generation who enjoyed bubble-era privileges in their youth but who fumbled in uncertain directions during the protracted recession.
Highlights among the newcomers include the manga-trained Taro Sakakibara’s “Koto Fight,” an arcade video game image of a tag-team battle between national art treasures, the Gods of Wind and Thunder representing Kenninji Temple and the Buddhist Nio guardians Agyo and Ungyo who protect the entrance to Todaiji Temple in Nara. These swoop down from the sky for combat in front of a ramen shop announcing that it offers both an English menu and university student discounts.
Ayako Fudamoto mimics the sculptural conventions of plastic food samples displayed outside restaurants in Japan to entice customers, but here she assembles them into a tuberous digestive organ created from sliced ham, fried foods, hamburgers, over-sauced spaghetti and cabbage leaves. Her piece is a freestanding sculpture of contemporary poor dieting habits exposed for viewing displeasure.
Takuma Kamine performs contemporary takes on religious figure sculptures. The exhibited one concerns the Hindu solar deity Surya, who was also marshaled as one of the 12 guardians of Buddhism. Natsuko Tanihara’s “Today is My Wedding Ceremony,” meanwhile, proposes an unsettling alliance. Her wedding portrait is dark and full of anxiety and fear. The newly married couple is flanked by gruesome parents and a pizza-faced boy. The groom, too, looks much like the cast of horror surrounding him, while the bride, though glittering in a fairy-tale dress, looks none too happy about what should be a special occasion.
It is frequently the humorous iconoclasm regarding the places of tradition in the present that make this show engaging. The other half of more conservative pieces on display serve mostly to thin out the provocations.
“Kyoto Art For Tomorrow: Selected Artists in Kyoto 2017” at The Museum of Kyoto runs util Feb. 12; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. (Fri. until 7:30 p.m.). 500. Closed Mon. www.bunpaku.or.jp