Takashi Arai, Multiple Monument for Lucky Dragon 5, 2013
One of the most forward-thinking Japanese art institutions, Mori Art Museum, holds its 4th triennial showcase of contemporary Japanese art, “Roppongi Crossing.” This year’s exhibition, Roppongi Crossing 2013: OUT OF DOUBT, is an attempt to trace core value shifting effects of 3/11 on the local art scene and link them to the post-WWII Japanese avant-garde. As is often the case with Japanese art, the works tend to be trivial and overly decorative even when it comes to matters of life-and-death, nonetheless, there are still a few that punch well above their weight. Gripping Takashi Arai’s daguerreotypes, picturing the aftermaths of nuclear disasters from the first atomic test in 1945 to snapshots of Fukushima surroundings, momentous Hiroshi Nakamura’s reportage paintings, Genpei Akasegawa’s political comics and graphic Sachiko Kazama’s woodblock prints make you rethink once more the outcomes of post-Imperial Japan–U.S. alliance, while Yukinori Yanagi’s works take on the broader globalization issues.
Of course, no exhibition can answer where contemporary Japanese art is at, but as one of the curators of the exhibition, Reuben Keegan, accurately observes: “perhaps the question we should be asking is not, after all, what Japanese art is or was. Perhaps what we should be asking is what Japanese art can be. Perhaps we should be asking what Japanese art can do.” And, on a larger scale — “What can Japan be? What can Japan do?”
In the light of the ongoing Fukushima tragedy and upcoming Tokyo Olympics, with its many highly questionable decisions on the future of Tokyo, the timing of “Roppongi Crossing 2013: OUT OF DOUBT” couldn’t be better. Through January 13th.
Yuji Honbori, Twelve Heavenly Generals / Bhaisajyaguru, 2013 (Detail)
Yuji Honbori became known for his eye-catching eco-philosophical take on traditional Buddhist art. Working only with readily available materials, the artist recreates well-known Buddhist motives from CAD-like layers of cardboard. Honbori’s solo exhibition, “Fujin Raijin,” at Nanzuka, showcases his latest works including a large scale diptych of the same name. Through November 16th.
Tokujin Yoshioka, Water Block, 2002
Unlike historically prized craftsmanship and superior technical skills, contemporary art has never found much recognition in Japan and remains a getaway of a chosen few. Where Japanese artists truly excel though is the gray zone between art, craft and design. One of the forerunners of this fusion is Tokujin Yoshioka whose solo exhibition “Crystalize” has just opened at Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. The combination of artificial crystals, prisms and piles of plastic straws, presented at the show, evoke a sensation of being placed in the middle of a majestic icy landscape miles away from civilization. Through January 19th.
Maiko Masaki, Photographer Larry Clark, Geiko Mayuha and Maiko Mameroku
“Motherfuckers, buy!” has greeted guests the legendary photographer-slash-director, supreme outsider’s insider Larry Clark, at the opening reception for Larry Clark Stuff in Tokyo exhibition, expertly staged by Boo-Hooray‘s own Johan Kugelberg. Heavy on Kids era polaroids, t-shirts, skate decks and other memorabilia, the exhibition at United Arrows is a throwback to the time before streetwear has hit runways and the quota of graphic designers multiplied as quick as software updates.
While giving a good scope of 90s downtown scene, highlighted by the on-set snaps of fresh-faced Chloë Sevigny and Harmony Korine, most of the items have more sentimental rather than artistic value. They’re exactly as premised — stuff, from the director’s personal collection, building blocks for his movies to be experienced as a whole. In contrast to that, Clark’s early black-and-white photographs from seminal “Tulsa” and “Teenage Lust” series, popping up here and there, hold their own against quickly changing aesthetics with stripped to the bare bones realization.
At the end of the reception youth catalyst pulled out his iPhone as if to answer a call, listened to it for a few seconds and went on performing an off-tune version of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” stopping each verse to confirm the lyrics. Once the song was finished, Clark turned around and disappeared behind the elevator doors. Through September 23rd.
Andy Warhol, 200 Campbell’s Soup Cans, 1962
There are several factors that make a private collection stand out compared to that of a museum — personal taste and the character of an owner, easily traceable face-to-face artist-collector interchange and the element of surprise (personal gifts from artists and spontaneous buys). All that is thoroughly present in a superb American Pop Art: From the John and Kimiko Powers Collection exhibition at The National Art Center, Tokyo.
The collection is full of gems, most notably Jasper Johns, whom John was particularly fond of, along with top-notch Lichtensteins, Wesselmanns, Rauschenbergs, rarely seen late Warhols, Rosenquist, and this is just the very top of the list. Not only John and Kimiko were avid collectors, they were also part of the scene, present at the right time at the right place, with the whole Pop Art movement unfolding in front of their eyes. The couple’s passion for art went well beyond collecting, by commissioning works and inviting artists to their Colorado artist-in-residence Powers invested heavily in the whole art ecosystem.
A long love letter to Pop Art, the exhibition is a perfect example of collecting done right and an absolute must-see. Through October 21st.
Nobuyoshi Araki, Tokyo Blues 1977 (Detail)
Just two months since subpar EroReal, Nobuyoshi Araki’s latest exhibition, Tokyo Blues 1977, is a timely reminder of the photographer’s enduring legacy. The high contrast black and white series shown at Taka Ishii Gallery Photography / Film is most notable for rarely used by the master of full-body photography broad, cinematic shots. Underlined by raw surroundings, these miniature scenes give the series more depth, intensifying the overall dramatic effect. Through September 21st.
Tomoko Yoneda, Kimusa, 2009
Not immediately inviting, Tomoko Yoneda‘s works require reading captions and some historical knowledge to grasp their meaning. Just like the title of her solo exhibition,“We shall meet in the place where there is no darkness” at Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, taken from “Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell, works of the renown journalist-come-photographer quote not too distant historic events by meticulously documenting remains of once significant sights. Whether it’s abandoned Japanese houses in Taiwan, ruins of post-WWII Japanese presence in Sakhalin, or the beautifully photographed meeting spots of Soviet spies Richard Sorge and Hotsume Ozaki, we’re presented with ambient stills left to fill the gaps in-between on our own. It’s precisely in-between, when you put captions and images together, where Yoneda’s works come to life, fired by our own realization. Through September 23d.