The current exhibition at the Tochigi Prefectural Museum of Fine Arts is an eclectic mix that includes the romanticism of John Constable (1776-1837), the postmodernism of Thomas Ruff and a number of yōga (Western-style painting) works depicting regions in Tochigi Prefecture. With the title “What Do You See When You Look at Pictures?,” the show presents itself as an exercise in visual literacy and is full of thoughtful provocations.

The first section, titled “What is a Face?,” features self-portraiture by Japanese artists active in the early to mid-20th century. A sequence of images on one wall starts with a representational self-portrait by Shinkyu Uchida (1901-58), in which the artist clearly identifies himself, and ends with a colorful, semiabstract composition by Fuki Sekiya (1903-69). This sequence can be considered a prompt to keep in mind that not only the artist, but also the viewer makes interpretive judgments in order for art to be art.

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