Sunday, October 13, 2013

exhibition: rebirth


It’s been a full decade since Mariko Mori’s last New York museum show, and viewers who remember that exhibition might not even recognize the artist in “Rebirth: Recent Work by Mariko Mori,” at Japan Society. The futuristic fashion plate of Ms. Mori’s earlier photographs and videos — the artist herself, in Manga-inspired get-ups — seems to have vanished, and so has her contemporary Japanese landscape of malls, airports and business districts.

In their place are meditative, abstract sculptures and installations, strongly influenced by Buddhism, theoretical physics, and prehistoric cultures (and also, it often seems, by other contemporary artists like Hiroshi Sugimoto and James Turrell). They make up an ambitious but disappointing show, which summons big ideas and primal energies only to give them trite, New Agey forms. Continue reading

Saturday, September 21, 2013

exhibition: out of doubt

               
For this four iteration of the Mori Art Museum's comprehensive triennial of contemporary Japanese art, the institution's chief curator Mami Kataoka, is joined by guest curator from Australia and US. Together, they have selected a group of thirty participants, which (unlike in years past) also includes expatriate Japanese artist and those of Japanese decent: Ei Arakawa, Aki Sasamoto, and Simon Fujiwara to name a few. The roster is farther expanded with work by several postwar artists such as anti-art pioneer Genpei Akasegawa, reportage painter Hiroshi Nakamura, and Mono-ha artist Kishio Suga.

Kishio SugaLinked Space,  2010, wire, cement
Installation view: Gallery 604, Busan; photo: Sato Tsuyoshi
Among other figures, who utilized nonsensical painting, incomplete objects, and performance to question cultural values and disrupt rigid social programs. Seen in dialogue, the art of this international ensemble promises to demonstrate the ways in which ideologic and methodological legacies of the Japanese avant-garde have been transmitted between generations.

Mika TajimaThe Extras, 2010, wood, canvas, acrylic paint, silkscreen, mirrored aluminum, wood, paper, plexiglas, MDF, spray enamel, video monitor, formica, glass, lights; photo: Jason Mandella, Courtesy: Sculpture Center, New York
(Artforum Sep 2013 issue)

Thursday, September 12, 2013

exhibition: curated body

Eikoh Hosoe, Man and Woman #24, 1960
Eikoh Hosoe emerged in the experimental arts movement of post-war Japan. Early on in his career he abandoned the documentary style prevalent in the post-war years and produced work that breathed a sense of experimentation and freedom into photography. He developed a unique style combining photography with elements of theatre, dance, film and traditional Japanese art.
Eikoh Hosoe, Man and Woman #20, 1960
Hosoe gained recognition in the late 1950s with the series Man and Woman (1959) wielding power in their explicit exploration of the human form. Permeated by dark, obscure images of naked bodies, Man and Woman is inspired by Tatsumi Hijikata, the charismatic dancer and founder of Butoh dance movement, whom he met through his friend, the writer Yukio Mishima. Hosoe’s concerns resonated deeply with Hijikata whose performance explores themes of death and eroticism through exaggerated, and extremely slow movement, by performers covered in white body paint.
Eikoh Hosoe, Embrace #60, 1970
Produced then years later Embrace series reduce the model’s flesh to a calm abstract contemplation of body contours.  Human limbs are treated as the subjects of a still life, but there is a surprising amount of movement as well —muscles are taught, and bodies are folded and pressed against one another.

In 1974, Hosoe was selected by MoMA as one of 15 artists in the first major survey of Japanese photography outside of Japan. Images from his Man and Woman series were part of the landmark exhibition, New Japanese Photography, and are now on view once again in Miyako Yoshinaga Gallery in New York, along with the prints from Embrace series. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

project room: Three

               
Three (est. 2009), an anonymous artist collective from Fukushima Prefecture stayed in New York for the month of July as the first invitees to Japan Society's Summer Artist Residency Program. 

Hailing from Fukushima, the artists were direct victims of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear fallout. In fact, their latest work “Tokyo Electric” was created for the 2nd anniversary of the earthquake. The imposing cubic structure stands over 3 meters high and is built to the same scale of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, explains the artists. It was made from 151,503 soy sauce containers – a number that happens to represent the number of displaced citizens.


Multiplicity is a common element in Three’s work. And their medium of choice – often objects that are cheaply mass-produced – is a reminder of our increasingly inorganic society and the death of the individual. Numerology is equally important element and so during the month-long stay Three created 555 works using 500 Japanese comic and anime plastic figures and 55 of their American counterparts taking cue from the number five in homage to five boroughs of New York.

Friday, August 2, 2013

collection of painted days

On Kawara studio
On Kawara is interested in time - its days, years, centuries, and eons. Each Date painting of his Today Series, the magnum opus that he begun in 1966, is a monochrome field on which is written the date of the day on which the painting was executed, in the language and according to the calendar of the country Kawara was in at the time. If he does not complete a painting by midnight, he destroys it. Some days he makes two paintings, very occasionally, he makes three, but most days he makes none.



Every painting in the series conforms to one of eight sizes, all horizontal in orientation, ranging from eight by ten inches to sixty-one by eighty-nine inches. And for every painting the artist mixes the color afresh, so that the chroma of each is unique. Tonalities in the brown-gray and blue-black range have dominated in recent years. four of five coats of acrylic are evenly applied to the canvas, creating a dense matte surface, onto which letters, numbers, and punctuation marks are then built up by hand, rather than aid of stencils. Initially he used an elongated Gill Sans typeface, later a quintessentially modernist Futura.

Each painting is stored in a handmade cardboard box with a clipping from a newspaper published in the same city and on the same day that the painting was made. (Kawara has exhibited the works both with and without the boxes.) A constant traveler, Kawara has created date paintings in over 112 cities worldwide, in the project that will end only with his death.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

art in action: sincere cappuccino

The works I like most is always the art I don't understand, those that stick in mind but eludes in every other way. This is very true of Aki Sasamoto, whose studio I visited recently.
Japanese artist who has been living in New York for over 8 years, gained attention for her multimedium installation/performances at the 2010 Whitney Biennial. More recently, her first solo exhibition in New York featured humble dollar-store materials in an expansive, ephemeral installation of sound and sculpture titled Talking in Circles in Talking. The gallery walls were transformed into a climbing-wall-cum-whiteboard, creating a backdrop for several performances.

Sasamoto placed eight stainless-steel mixing bowls on the floor around the narrow gallery. An ice pick stood upright inside each bowl, and on its sharp tip balanced a smaller steel bowl, face down. Above these precarious contraptions hung large chunks of ice suspended in loosely woven baskets made of brightly colored shoelaces. As the ice melted, the pinging of the drips on the metal was amplified through small microphones, filling the gallery with percussive, Tin Pan Alley-like sounds. Frozen inside the ice were small items, including keys, eyeglasses and wristwatches, symbolizing the "owned" nature of objects. According to Sasamoto, at the time of death, people become the objects that they are physically close to, in the way ice becomes water—a theory she articulated during her performances. continue reading
Sasamoto performances are surreal, self-contained worlds of free associations that marry distorted everyday objects with lectures and monologues, which are both melancholy and amusing. Perhaps neither the artist nor the viewer can fully comprehend what is taking place, but Sasamoto has found her own way of deferring that understanding. As she says everything we don't comprehend goes inside a pickling pot with the hope that it tastes better in the future

Sunday, July 7, 2013

film: Helter Skelter


Famous supermodel and idol Lilico holds a dark secret that soon is to come out, her seemingly beautiful body was created entirely through plastic surgery. Mika Ninagawa beauty horror based on popular manga meant to be critical towards idol industry but in many ways turned out exactly opposite. Ninagawa being a fashion photographer is part of the industry herself and perhaps in her case it does not help to be critical.


The film is two hours of madly colorful production cloying obvious commentary presented through regrettably extended scenes.The director however pushes our tolerance for that glorious gaudiness too far. It feels like flipping through the glossy fashion magazine with too little content, which is rather hard to endure.

Monday, June 17, 2013

exhibition: Il Palazzo Enciclopedico

Earlier this month I visited Massimiliano Gioni's much anticipated The Encyclopedic Palace in Venice. To my and many others delight Gioni's elegant show blurred the distinction between outsider and professional artists presenting tantalizing roster of unknowns. Among them Shinichi Sawada born with severe autism who express himself through sculpting an expanding menagerie of clay figures in his mountaintop studio.  

All of Sawada's works - dragons, demons, totemic figures with multiple faces, and twisted, howling masks - bristle with hundreds of handmade clay spikes, which give them an intricate, ornamental beauty and a menacing look. Some seem to be inspired by ancient Japanese lore, other by Noh theatre masks or even Manga and Anime. Yet others recall the arts of African tribes but their true nature and cosmology state the inner life of the artist and may never be known.


The other Japanese artist in the show is not so unknown and since his works have been sown at last dOCUMENTA (13). Nevertheless it was good to see his riotous, multi-layered works in painting, sculpture and bookmaking in different context, which played in his favor. Responding directly to mass media and contemporary urban life, Shinro Ohtake's works feature accumulations of found materials, which manage to suggest both short burst of slapdash energy and years of considered, geologically paced buildup.
One of the most prominent and persistent facets of Ohtake's practice is his series Scrapbooks, which, since its inception in 1977, has grown into a collection of over 60 individual books, some over seven hundred pages long. These books hold mountainous collections of found materials, which the artis collages and paints to create complex compositions on each page of the book so that each of them become sculptural object.


text based on Il Palazzo Enciclopedico guidebook

Saturday, June 1, 2013

project room: Koki Tanaka

The jury of the 55th Venice Biennale, the world’s most prestigious art event, has given special mention to Koki Tanaka, the first time an artist in the Japanese pavilion has won an award since the biennale's inauguration in 1895.



In his diverse art practice spanning video, photography, site-specific installation, and interventional projects Koki Tanaka focuses on the perplexities of everyday experience, which can be funny, mundane, pathetic, and, when attention is drawn to them, beautiful. His primary medium is ideas, and his projects test the limits of what is by imagining something slightly different and asking the viewer to do the same.

The work on view in Venice, Abstract Speaking: Sharing Uncertainty and Collective Acts, features four films, in which musicians, hairdressers, potters or poets are asked to reorient their typical methods of working. And so respectively the video focuses on five piano  players playing the same instrument simultaneously, several hairdressers who cut the hair of a single model, multiply potter forming a single piece of pottery and five poets writing the single poem.

The jury explained that they decided to give special mention to a Japanese artist for the poignant reflection on issues of collaboration and failure in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

Given the impending focus on the artist, this seems like a fine time to review Tanaka's previous works.

Since 2001, the work of Koki Tanaka has taken shape primarily as videos and installations that explore the relationship between objects and actions. His videos record simple gestures performed with everyday items—a knife cutting vegetables, beer poured into a glass, the opening of an umbrella—in which seemingly “nothing happens.” Yet, through their repetitive composition and heightened attention to detail, Tanaka’s videos compel us to take notice of the mundane phenomena of daily existence. Latent patterns and geometric forms emerge out of actions, and otherwise ordinary objects are transformed, providing an epiphany of sorts from moments of everyday life.

Top: Fly me to the moon, 2001, video. Bottom: Everything is Everything, 2006, video 
The culmination of this investigation into simple actions with ordinary objects takes shape as the eight-channel video installation, Everything Is Everything (2006).

First exhibited at the 2006 Taipei Biennial, this work involves the artist and two assistants recording their interactions and interventions with readily available items, including hangers, cups, towels, an air mattress and toilet paper, all found around the city of Taipei.


Over the course of eight days, the physical properties of these objects are tested (a metal hanger is stretched to its breaking point) or their uses expanded (a level placed on two table legs becomes an impromptu hurdle). At times these actions verge on the absurd , while other moments are more serene and contemplative. Tanaka experimented with each item multiple times both indoors and outdoors, and their exploits were compiled into eight distinct video. Tanaka’s tightly cropped framing of each scene often features the performers from the neck down or removes them from the shot altogether, thus focusing the viewer’s attention on the objects and the simple, repetitive acts being performed. In Taipei, the videos were displayed on eight monitors placed on the floor, along with the household items used in their making. Both monitors and objects were purposely strewn around the room, creating an intentionally chaotic installation reminiscent of a Robert Morris scatter piece.  

The repetitive nature of the actions in Everything is Everything, combined with the use of inexpensive, mass-produced materials, highlights an affinity Tanaka’s videos share with the logic of Minimalist sculpture and process art of the 1960s. as well as to the legacies of Mono-ha and Arte Povera.

Top and BottomApproach to an Old House, 2008, video
Testing the physical properties of items and inventing new ways to rethink their intended functions also gave shape to Tanaka’s next project, Physical Test (2007–08), which consists of hundreds of colorful household items placed on tabletops or hung on the wall, which have been combined with one another in unlikely ways. Beginning with the videos Approach to an Old House (2008), on through Simple Gesture and Temporary Sculpture (2008), Walk Through, test nos. 1–2 (2009), and culminating with Walking Through (2009), Tanaka’s actions become increasingly aggressive and unpredictable.
Scenes in Approach to an Old House include the artist—who was given free rein to make installations in an abandoned house in Seoul—violently tearing down curtains and cutting a string that unleashes a series of suspended beer-bottle crates that come crashing down with a deafening noise. 

In 2009, Tanaka received a three-year grant from the Japanese Agency for Cultural Affairs (Bunkacho) to move to Los Angeles, where he currently resides.

Top: A Piano Played by Five Pianists at Once (first attempt), 2012, HD video; Bottom: A Haircut by 9 Hairdressers at Once (second attempt), 2010, HD video
Since leaving Japan, Tanaka’s work has become increasingly collaborative, with a marked shift away from his material investigation of everyday objects. Instead of performing actions himself, these collaborative works focus on documenting multiple participants in their attempt to complete a given task. The artist relinquishes his role as an active participant and assumes the role of bystander to a situation of his own making.

The first collaborative work, A Haircut by 9 Hairdressers at Once (second attempt) (2010), takes place at a hair salon in San Francisco where a group of hairdressers attempt to give the model a haircut by committee and is one of the video works for the Venice Pavilion.

This approach represents an alternative but related track of the artist’s object-oriented work in which experimenting with ordinary objects in unlikely ways offers a possible escape from our everyday routine. In his collaborative works, the tables are turned, with Tanaka asking his participants to collectively navigate tasks that in and of themselves are out of the ordinary. Continue reading.

Interview with the artist.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

art in action: Paris&Wizard


I've been posting about Ei Arakawa quite a lot already. Here is the video of his recent commission for MoMA that took place in conjunction with the exhibition Tokyo 1955-1970: A new avant-garde in which he examines pivotal story lines of early Japanese video art in the 1970s and interprets them into musical form. Paris & Wizard is based in part on particular relationships between MoMA curator Barbara London and video artists around Japan, highlights creative curiosities about new media, and the personal ties that enabled the export of this new Japanese scene into North American and European contexts.

The links below active until the end of May. Password Wizard

Part 1 (10:13)
Part 2 (9:35)
Part 3 (13:21)
Part 4 (11:49)

Monday, April 15, 2013

film: Cutie and the Boxer


Cutie and the Boxer, dir. Zachary Heinzerling, documentary, 82min., 2013
Using boxing gloves and frequently his Mohawk as a paintbrush, Ushio Shinohara exploded onto the 1970s New York art scene. His cutting-edge work was classified as “action art” and gained much attention. During this career peak he met and fell in love with Noriko, an art student who became his assistant and later his wife. Over the years, his work garnered praise but little financial success. Now, decades later, the couple struggles to pay the rent. Ushio keeps making action art and seems trapped in the past. Noriko, like her work, is evolving and growing as she creates new paintings centered on her autobiographical characters named Cutie and Bullie. 

Zachary Heinzerling’s patient observational style allows viewers an immersive experience to witness the couple’s daily struggles and celebrations. Into this narrative, Heinzerling braids tender memories from home movies with stark animation of Cutie and Bullie’s prickly relationship to reveal a complicated working relationship and moving love story. 

Screenings at the Tribecca Film festival from 21st through 26the April.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

exhibition: spelndid playground

Much heralded opening of the Gutai exhibition: Splendid Playground in Guggenheim preceded by Lee Ufan show and Mono-ha exhibition at the Gladstone Gallery, as well as ongoing show in MoMA: Tokyo 1955-1970. A New Avant Garde marks the recent fervor on Japanese postwar art.
Mnontanaga SadamasaWork (Water), 1956
Polyethylene, water, dye, and rope, dimensions variable
Installation view: Outdoor Gutai Art Exhibition, Ashiya Park, Ashiya, July 27-August 5, 1956
© Motonaga Nakatsuji Etsuko, courtesy Motonaga Document Research Office

Gutai (1954–1972), a significant avant-garde artist collective founded by Yoshihara Jiro in in the town of Ashiya, near Osaka whose primary directive was: Do something no one's ever done before. From its earliest festival-like events, Gutai artist sought to break down the barriers between art, the ordinary public, and everyday life, and continuously took on new artistic challenges.
Yamazaki Tsuruko,  Work (Red Cube),  1956, wood, vinyl, lightbulbs
Installation view: Outdoor Gutai Art Exhibition, Ashiya Park, Ashiya, July 27-August 5, 1956
The Gutai group was unique in postwar Japan in that it spanned both the optimistic but raw period of postwar reconstruction during the 1950s. and the disillusioned but prosperous period of rapid growth of the 1960s. Gutai's history may be divided into two phases, using the establishment of Gutai Pinacotheca (1962), which operated out of three refurbished warehouses and functioned as a private contemporary art space as a turning point.
Gutai Art Association members in front of Gutai Pinacotheca, Osaka, 1962

During the first phase Gutai constructed self-expression as an assertion of the individual against the mass-conformist legacies of wartime totalitarianism. Not only did they lead by example, performing powerful acts of self-expression, but they sought to develop the autonomy of others—of their audience, the general public, and especially of children—by provoking them to think, create, and imagine for themselves.

Yoshihara Jiro, Please Draw Freely, 1956, Paint and marker on wood
Installation view: Outdoor Gutai Art Exhibition, Ashiya Park, Ashiya, July 27-August 5, 1956
© Yoshihara Shinichirō and the former members of the Gutai Art Association, courtesy Museum of Osaka University

During the group’s second phase (1962–72), Gutai assessed and experimented with new technologies, seeking ways to counter the perceived dehumanization caused by Japan’s rapid growth and evaluating its cultural impact.

Nasaka Senkichirō and Yoshihara Michio, Work, 1970
Stainless steel pipe and recorded sound, approximately 150 meters long
Installation view: Gutai Group Exhibition, Midori Pavilion, Expo ’70, Osaka, March 15- September 13, 1970
© Nasaka Senkichirō, Yoshihara Naomi and the former members of the Gutai Art Association, courtesy Museum of Osaka University
Unbridled invention led the Gutai to experiment with new methods and materials: they painted with watering cans, remote-control toys, homemade cannons, and bare feet; made ephemeral site-specific works using the sky, water, sand, lightbulbs, and torn paper screens, and staged exhibitions in public parks, on the beach, and in bombed-out ruins.

But despite it boundless creativity and chronological priority in performance and installation art, Gutai remained relatively marginalized within the history of modernism. The Guggenheim show co-curator, Ming Tiampo in her article Cultural mercantilismModernism's means of Production: The Gutai Group as Case Study describes how the group's first show at Martha Jackson Gallery in New York (1958) was received by critics who did not bother to conceal their contempt calling their art an imitation of the Abstract-Expressionism.
Shiraga KazuoWork II, 1958, Oil on paper, mounted on canvas 
Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art, Kobe
© Shiraga Hisao, courtesy Hyōgo Prefectural Museum of Art


Will Guggenheim's exhibition demystify it and help to see Gutai practice not as derivative or belated, but rather as a part of multidimentional history of postwar modernism, which should not longer be regarded as strictly Western phenomenon.

Comprising approximately 145 works by 25 artists and spanning two generations of Gutai artists, Gutai: Spendid Playground is organized into six chronological and thematic sections presented along the Guggenheim ramps: Play, Concept, Network, Concrete, Performance Painting, Environment. The exhibition also includes documentary films of the group’s historic outdoor exhibitions and stage events and focus on their eponymous journal as a platform for international artistic exchange.  

Tanaka Atsuko, Work (Bell), 1955,
bells, electric cords, transimpedance amplifier, and switch, dimensions
The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund 
The exhibition features among others Tanaka Atsuko’s interactive sound-art installation Work (Bell), where visitors activate a cacophony of bells ringing sequentially across the Guggenheim’s and “performance paintings” by Murakami Saburo, Shimamoto Shozo, and Shiraga Kazuo. For Shiraga, painting with his feet enabled an unmediated encounter with the material and a direct bodily form of artistic expression, seen in such paintings as Work II and in his performance Challenging Mud, where the artist “painted” with his entire body in a pile of grit, directly engaging with raw matter.
Shiraga KazuoChallenging Mud, 1955
performance view: second execution, 1st Gutai Art Exhibition , Ohara Kaikan,  Tokyo  October  19, 1955.
Photo courtesy Amagasaki Cultural Center, copyright Shiraga Hisao and the former members of the Gutai Art Association

New directions in environment art marked Gutai’s second phase, explored in “Environment: Gutai Art for the Space Age” section of the exhibition which highlights artists from this later period of Gutai production, who have long been neglected in scholarship, such as Imai Norio, Imanaka Kumiko, Kikunami Jōji, Matsuda Yutaka, Matsutani Takesada, Mukai Shūji, Nasaka Senkichirō, Nasaka Yūko, and Yoshida Minoru. Exploring the relationship between art, its environment, and the viewer, Gutai’s intermedia works incorporate optical illusion, light projection, and movement. Artists frequently motorized their sculptures, turning exhibition spaces into dens of screeching, pulsing, machinelike organisms. Yoshida‘s erotic machine-sculpture Bisexual Flower mines the psychedelic effects of this approach.
Yoshida Minoru, Bisexual Flower, 1969
Plexiglas, motors, electrical circuitry, ultraviolet tubes, bath salts, water, and sound,
Estate of Yoshida Minoru, Japan
Installation view: Gutai: Splendid Playground, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum,
New York, February 15–May 8, 2013. 
Photo: David Heald © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

A centerpiece of the exhibition is a site-specific commission of Work (Water) (1956/2011) by the late Motonaga Sadamasa, who reimagined his iconic early Gutai outdoor installation, made of plastic tubes filled with colored water, for the Guggenheim rotunda. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

looking back, picks of 2012

Kimimasa Mayama/European Pressphoto Agency

In the two years after Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns, Japan has experienced a new, politically charged era. In some of the largest demonstrations since American-Vietnam war, tens of thousands of antinuclear protesters flooded the streets.In the two years after Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns, Japan has experienced a new, politically charged era. In some of the largest demonstrations since American-Vietnam war, tens of thousands of antinuclear protesters flooded the streets.

Lieko Shiga,  Rasen Kaigan, 2011/2012
In the widespread destruction, the events of March 11, 2011 damaged several art institutions such as Sendai Mediatheque and Art Tower Mito. Last year Lieko Shiga displayed starky haunting images created since disaster in the reopened Mediatheque and Art Tower Mito hosted Artists and the Disaster - Documentation in Progress, records of artists' practical attempts at cleaning up and community rebuilding among which Naoya Hatakeyama's photos of the devastation caused by the tsunami were particularly poignant.
Seige Ono + Ryuichi Sakamoto + Shiro TakataniSilence Spins, 2012, sound installation.
Photo : Norihiro Ueno. Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo.
Japan's museums held numerous memorable exhibitions in 2012. The National Art Center, Tokyo (NACT) held Gutai - The Spirit of an Era, the movement first survey in Tokyo. The Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) presented the first large-scale Tokyo retrospective of Gutai pioneer Atsuko Tanaka, including her iconic, wearable outfit of painted light bulbs, Electric Dress. Later in the year composer Ryuichi Sakamoto curated Art And Music - Search for New Synesthesia, a crossover of the audio and visual works. 
Rinko Kawaguchi,  Divinity in the mundane: Untitled, from the Illuminance series 2007 
National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT) drew on its collection for the show Art Will Thrill You! The Essence of Modern Japanese Art, half of which was dedicated to Mono-ha. At the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography, Rinko Kawaguchi's solo exhibition included her recent Illuminace series of eerily lit images of everyday settings. Tokyo private museums often stage the city's best exhibitions. In 2012 Mori Art Museum (MAM) presented Lee Bul, an Asia's leading artist solo show followed by the first survey of art from Middle East and rounded out the year with retrospective of Makoto Aida, who plays devil's advocate, tweaking his nation's collective conscience by opening a Pandora's box of issues from which most of his compatriots typically avert their eyes. 
Makoto AidaPath Between Rice Fields, 1991
The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art (Watari-um) presented Turning Around, an unusual exhibition of political-activist art curated by Chim ↑ Pom, the Japanese artist group that is itself known for its artistic "brushes" with the law. Last year they added images of Fukushima nuclear power plant, which experienced the meltdown to Taro Okamoto's well-known mural at Shibuya station in Tokyo.

Tokyo Opera City Gallery featured Kishin Shinoyama's portraits of celebrities while next door, the NTT InterCommunication Center examined the relevance of the internet for new-media and conceptual artists such as exonemo and Akihiko Taniguchi in Internet Art Future: Reality in Post Internet Era.
Koji Enokura, Wall, 1971, gelatin silver print
Located in a converted warehouse in Kiyosumi, one of the citie's densest cluster of top galleries, Taka Ishii Gallery held solo show of Tomoo Gokita's surreal, black-and-white abstract painting followed by Documentation, photographs of Koji Enokura's ephemeral Mono-ha sculptures from 1960s to 1980s. While Tomio Koyama Gallery exhibited photographs and sculptures by another Mono-ha artist Kishio-Suga. Next door, Ai Kowada Gallery hold the show of Futoshi Miyagi's videos and photographs exploring guy identity in Okinawa. In nearby Bakurocho, Radium exhibited Kentaro Haruyama's sleek geometric sculptures of metal, plastic and wood fragments while Zenshi presented sound installation by Hidekado Goto.

In Tokyo's neighboring metropolis of Yokohama, Yokohama Museum of Art hosted retrospective of Yoshimoto Nara. North of the capital, the Museum of Modern Art Saitama held The '70s in Japan: 1968-1982 survey of art, graphic design, architecture, photography, theatre, music and manga.
On November 3 in Kobe opened the Yokoo Tadanori Museum of Contemporary Art, dedicated to the veteran graphic-designer-turned-artist. Further to the west, the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art ended 2012 with survey of Fluxus member Ay-O while the National Museum in Osaka held the exhibition of Aiko Miyanaga naphthalene sculptures, which gradually degrade at the room temperature.
Ay-OFinger Box, 1963-66, wood and mixed media
Outside Japan, in New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) held Tokyo 1955-1970: A new Avant-Garde exhibition that encompassed Gutai, Hi Red Center, Jikken Kobo and Mono-ha. David Zwirner Gallery exhibited On Kawara's date paintings while Gary Snyder Gallery showed an installation by Taadaki Kuwayama, and Fiedman Benda presented Tadanori Yokoo new collages. In Midtown Tatsu Nishi enclosed Christopher Columbus monument in the temporary room. On the West Cost, Naoya Hatakeyama had his first US solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art while in Los Angeles, Blum&Poe held Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha. Looking ahead to 2013, the Museum of Modern Art in Kamakura will hold the exhibition of Jikken Kobo and Gutai artist will be subject to New Yorks's Guggenheim show Splendid Playground. In June, Koki Tanaka will represent Japan at Venice Biennale. 

Adapted from ArtAsiaPacific ALAMANAC 2013