Art Week Tokyo 2021: Exhibitions to See
Phyllida Barlow, Undercover 2 (2020). Timber, plywood, cement, scrim, plaster, polyurethane foam, paint, PVA, calico, and steel. Exhibition view: Another Energy: Power to Continue Challenging – 16 Women Artists from around the World, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (22 April 2021–16 January 2022). Courtesy Hauser & Wirth. Photo: Mori Art Museum.
Organised by Japan Contemporary Art Platform in cooperation with CADAN (Contemporary Art Dealers Association Nippon) the inaugural Art Week Tokyo (4–7 November 2021) will take place across 50 venues in the city, with exhibitions varying from museum retrospectives to artist-led incentives. Find out about this year's highlights with Ocula's definitive guide of must-see shows taking place as part of and concurrent to the event.
Another Energy: Power to Continue Challenging
Mori Art Museum, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 53F
22 April 2021–16 January 2022
Another Energy: Power to Continue Challenging brings together over 130 works spanning painting, installation, sculpture, video, and performance by 16 female artists—including Etel Adnan, Phyllida Barlow, Miriam Cahn, Carmen Herrera, Senga Nengudi, and Arpita Singh—born in the post-war years between the 1950s and 70s.
The exhibition sheds light on a plurality of voices from across the globe, articulating aeshetic visions that transcend culture and place.
Morio Nishimura: Oblivion – Six Seeds
Taguchi Fine Art, 2-6-13, Nihonbashi Honcho, Chuo-ku
30 October–25 December 2021
For Morio Nishimura's eighth solo exhibition with Taguchi Fine Art, the motif of lotus seeds returns across a series of new bronze sculptures cast from wooden models.
Among them is No. 3 (2021), a small bronze sculpture showing a rounded seed atop leaves that radiates calm, inviting viewers to reflect on the connections between human beings, nature, and the world.
On view at The Club, part one of Pierre-Elie de Pibrac's three-part series 'In Situ' reflects the artist's interest in capturing the energy of dance through photography.
The blurred images reflect the artist's desire to transpose dance into 'photographic thoughts, like childhood memories'. The series focuses on the Opéra de Paris and the étoile dancers performing there—an accolade given to the highest ranking performers.
Futo Akiyoshi's first solo with the gallery in three years is named after the complementary colours made from mixing the three primaries—red, blue, and yellow—and centres around a new painting from the artist's ongoing 'naked relations' series.
Commenced in 2013, paint is applied directly to transparent acrylic board. Its layers track the time taken to create the piece, while the transparency of the acrylic surface making the wall upon which the work is hung—the conditions of its display—visible. Gesturing towards the unseen process of painting, a collection of paint tubes will be shown alongside the work.
Yuma Kishi's mixed-media works explore the emergence of artificial intelligence through analogies to the body, often recovering historical motifs distorted through technology to create a sense of momentary dislocation.
At √K Contemporary, who are not part of AWT's line-up, sculpture, painting, and installation compose Imaginary Bones, which reinterprets the emergence of AI through the primitive motif of bones—a fundamental physical structure for the body and an essential tool in the progression of human civilisation. Th
Kohei Nawa's highly tactile and visceral sculptures and installations distort the surface of organic forms to replicate artificial images, as seen in the artist's 'PixCell' series, which reproduced individual cells on objects and creatures like firearms and deer, magnified using glass beads.
Tornscape continues Nawa's inquiry into the relationship between materials and physical properties with video and audio works, drawing parallels between skin and screens as surfaces that transmit information.
Known for taking a distanced approach to generate new perspectives, Takuro Tamura's first solo show at MAKI, which is not officially part of the AWT programme, will feature over 50 paintings and sculptures centred around the 5 'w' (who, what, when, where, why), or the questions we ask to make sense of any situation.
In the artist's 'Sold Painting' series, Takuro recovers the red sticker indicating sold works at art fairs and auctions, combined into grids with names of fictional artists and artworks.
French photographer and graffiti artist JR's portraits narrate obscured lives and challenge our perception of image dissemination by replicating enlarged monochrome faces plastered on monuments and in public spaces.
Contretemps turns back time to reimagine Willy Ronis' The Lovers of Bastille (1957), replacing the couple with two ballerinas floating above Paris. Alluding to the change in significance of images across time, JR's 'Unframed' series will show in parallel, reproducing well-known images outside their original context.
At KOSAKU KANECHIKA, which is not participating in AWT, is 5 ARTISTS, featuring new photographs by Chikashi Suzuki, known for his cover work for magazines like Purple and Dazed and Confused, figurative painting by Ataru Sato, and three of Junko Oki's latest embroidery works.
The exhibition will also include photorealistic images by Arisa Kumagai, known for close-ups of bodies rendered at unusual angles, and Ruby Neri's ceramic sculptures showing distorted female figures wearing expressions ranging from pleasure to terror.
Wahab Saheed: Some Days Are Diamond
Nanzuka Underground, 3-30-10 Jingumae
9 October–7 November 2021
Wahab Saheed's portraits exploring Black identity are made up of sharp strokes of charcoal, chalk, and oil pastel on acrylic that draw out her subjects' physicality while retaining their individual spirit.
Some Days Are Diamonds, the artist's first presentation in Japan, includes ten new portraits depicting family, friends, and acquaintances from his community on the Comoros Islands, an archipelago east of Mozambique.
Alex Dodge: Laundry Day—It All Comes Out in the Wash
Maki Fine Arts, 5-1-1F Nishigokencho
25 September–7 November 2021
Alex Dodge's paintings are made from computer-generated images and laser-cut stencils inspired by traditional Japanese stencil-dyeing techniques.
Blending old and new, the result is a poignant series of paintings that give a sense of three-dimensionality, with crumpled fabric and newspapers popping out against bright backgrounds, their stark contrasts recalling the graphic sensibilities of woodblock printing.
Kei Imazu: Mapping the Land/Body/Stories of its Past
ANOMALY, 1-33-10 Higashi-shinagawa, 4F
2 October–7 November 2021
Kei Imazu's paintings display a cacophony of partial bodies extracted from diverse media sources, aggregated into layered compositions with striking colours, textures, and fluid strokes travelling across collated images on canvas.
Made with 3D rendition software, Imazu's paintings depart from traditional drawing to explore the alternative realms introduced by technology.
Cecily Brown: The end is a new start
Blum & Poe, Harajuku Jingu-no-mori, 5F
22 October 2021–15 January 2022
Cecily Brown's multiverses, inspired by a range of historical and contemporary sources, blend abstraction with figuration. In recent years, Brown's fascination with shipwrecks has led the artist to trace the trope through history.
At Blum & Poe, The end is a new start features 12 paintings that combine Brown's existing interest in the historical representations of shipwrecks with earlier work, presenting a mini retrospective that traces the artist's oeuvre over the last 30 years.
Norio Imai's installations take the form of minimal interventions that convey subtle changes in the world.
Included in the exhibition is SQUARE-glass/glass (1970), a photograph documenting a square metre of glass lying on grass, an accidental work that was made one summer in 1970, when the artist—the youngest member of the avant-garde Gutai Art Association—noticed the reflection of the sky upon the glass.
This unlikely collaboration between Yasumasa Morimura, known for self-portraits disguised as historical and art historical figures, and Ritsue Mishima, a Murano glass sculptor, finds commonality in the theme of 'standing'.
The exhibition features works from Morimura's 'Self-Portrait from Art History' series showing the artist dressed as Vincent van Gogh and Jan van Eyck, among others, as well as glass works by Mishima dedicated to the same characters, re-imagined by the sculptor.
Yusuke Yamatani: KAIKOO
Yuka Tsuruno Gallery, 1-33-10 Higashi-Shinagawa, 3F
16 October–13 November 2021
During the pandemic, artist and photographer Yusuke Yamatani began renovating an 82-year-old home in Yokosuka that once housed Japanese troops during World War II.
Enlisting the help of family members and friends, the construction site became a place of encounter between people, time, and things. The artist relates the process of demolition and construction to his photographic practice, which he uses to initiate such encounters.
Lee Jin Woo
Tokyo Gallery + BTAP, 8-10-5 Ginza
4 November–25 December 2021
After witnessing the eruption of Mount Stromboli as a student and returning home with a container of ashes, Lee Jin Woo has continued his fascination with the motif of ash, which he explores through the use of charcoal on hanji paper.
Pulverising charcoal upon the paper, Lee's monochromatic surfaces are defined by distinct textures. The artist's second exhibition with the gallery will feature untitled monochrome works of varying sizes and textures made using the same process.
exonemo: CONNECT THE RANDOM DOTS
Waiting Room, Nagashima Bldg, 1F
16 October–14 November 2021
Waiting Room presents exonemo's new work, centred around the theme of 'randomness'. The exhibition will present drawings depicting hundreds of lines and dots weaved together in dense webs in addition to a book inspired by connect-the-dot books for children.
Each page of the book will be sold as an NFT, with buyers assigned at random by computer code, having applied to purchase any page of their choice.
Soimadou Ibrahim: Farewell Savane
Kotaro Nukaga, Piramide Bldg, 2F
4 November–18 December 2021
Raised in Ngazidja, an island within the archipelagic country Comoros in Southeast Africa, Soimadou Ibrahim draws inspiration from his childhood on the island, having left for France at the age of ten.
Amid persisting racial divides, the artist rather chooses to focus on collective nostalgias and shared narratives. Farewell Savane borrows its title from Ali Farka Touré's 'Savane' (2006), a song from an album by Touré that Ibrahim listened to while painting the works in this exhibition.
Kosuke Nagata: Equilibres
ANOMALY, 1-33-10 Higashi-shinagawa, 4F
2 October–7 November 2021
Equilibres ('balances') borrows its title from the sculptural series by Peter Fischli and David Weiss, showing household objects stacked in gravity-defying arrangements. Captured as images, they evoke the transition in the 1960s from physical to digital and text-based media.
Nagata's interest in material change is further articulated through his culinary pursuits, with food by the artist to be presented during the course of the exhibition.
Taka Ishii Gallery, complex665 3F
12 October–7 November 2021
YAKIMONO, meaning fired things, gathers the works of eight ceramic artists. Born in Japan, Mexico, and the United States, their experimental methods come into dialogue with contemporary culture while reflecting on the materiality of clay.
Amongst works on display is Keramikos II (2012), an installation by Matthew Lutz-Kinoy and Natsuko Uchino comprising over 300 pieces placed on a table ornamented with silkscreen posters, brightly glazed sculptures referencing psychedelic cultures and gay minimalism.
Yoichi Umetsu: Pollinator
WATARI-UM, 3-7-6 Jingumae
16 September 2021–16 January 2022
Known for daunting self-portraits that reappropriate historical paintings like Raphël Collin's Floréal (1888), for which the artist painted himself in place of the female nude, Yoichi Umetsu has always been interested in tracing artworks to their source.
Reflecting on the role of art and its social value, Umetsu curated Pollinator, an exhibition tracing hundreds of paintings, ceramics, video works, and recent sculptures made from 2004 to 2021 alongside the motif of pollen to allude to the artwork as a carrying vector, as well as the fragile and delicate nature of his own practice.
Akiko Hashimoto: I saw it, it was yours.
Gallery Koyanagi, 1-7-5 Koyanagi Bldg. 9F
9 September–30 October 2021
Akiko Hasimoto's detailed pencil drawings attached loosely to the gallery walls with adhesives are bent slightly or partially concealed by folds, suggesting there is more to composition beyond the flat, white surface of paper.
The exhibition features ten new drawings in addition to Curtain (2020), a large-scale pencil drawing on tracing paper that resembles a curtain, draped over a smaller graphite landscape at its centre. —[O]