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Naoya Hatakeyama, Blast #5416 (detail), 1998

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New Art from Japan
June 11-24, 2008

Artkrush looks beyond Japan's alternately cute and explicit manga-mania to uncover fresh approaches to a wide range of media. We begin with a gallery-by-gallery survey of contemporary art in Tokyo, highlighting Tai Ogawa's cutouts, the radiant installations of Koki Tanaka, and diaristic paintings and drawings by Youichi Umetsu. We examine how Tomoo Gokita arrived at the black-and-white geometry that obscures his painted portraits, while Noriko Fuko — co-curator of the International Center for Photography's current Heavy Light exhibition — talks to photographer Tomoko Sawada about her work and her rapid rise. For our media pick, we recommend Tokyolife: Art and Design, which delves further into the creative minds invigorating Japan's cultural capital, and, as always, we go global gallery-hopping, stopping in New York for a peek at Matthew Brannon's graphic stilettos, and in Vienna for João Pedro Vale's bad-boy sculptures.

Chapmans Hippify Hitler
(Independent, May 30)
Jake and Dinos Chapman have never shied away from controversy, but their new work may raise the shock-art bar. The brothers bought 13 watercolors by Adolf Hitler, on which they have painted rainbows, stars, and hearts. The originals were purchased for more than $226,000 and are now priced as one piece — If Hitler Had Been a Hippy How Happy Would We Be — at approximately $1,349,000. In a typically Chapman-esque statement, Jake said: "The idea of redeeming Hitler is bad; the idea of redeeming his work is a staggering work of genius." One commentator called the work "puerile," though such criticism is unlikely to deter the brothers from their other ongoing projects, including a proposed film. In a related story, an Albert Speer-designed Berlin bunker has become a private museum for contemporary art.

Controversial Sydney Show Resumes
(Daily Telegraph, June 11)
Australian artist Bill Henson, who faced criminal prosecution for recent photographs depicting a nude 13-year-old girl, has been cleared of charges. After police removed more than 20 Henson photographs from Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery in Sydney, the artist's work was also taken down at the National Gallery of Victoria and the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery. The mother of the photo's subject came out in defense of Henson, as did Cate Blanchett and members of Australia's art community. Finally, early Tuesday, June 10th, a police truck returned the controversial images to the Sydney gallery, which will show the exhibition on an appointment-only basis out of concern for community standards and the safety of the gallery staff and artwork.

Gehry Unveils Beekman Tower
(New York Times, May 31)
His floating riverside Guggenheim never got off the ground, his Atlantic Yards project has seen better days, and his recent IAC building now sports an ugly logo. But Frank Gehry may finally be getting some New York City love. The New York Times celebrated the final design for the architect's undulating, steel-clad Beekman Tower, currently under construction near City Hall, as a signal "that the city is finally emerging from a long period of creative exhaustion." The 76-story, 1.1-million-square-foot building will not be a luxury development — unlike some other starchitect projects in NYC — but will instead feature 903 market-rate apartments, a 630-student public school, offices for New York Downtown Hospital, and retail space.

Italian Artist Killed in Turkey
(Los Angeles Times, May 30)
Thirty-three-year-old Italian performance artist Pippa Bacca was recently murdered in Turkey while hitchhiking through the Middle East to promote peace with fellow artist Silvia Moro. Throughout their travels, Bacca and Moro wore wedding dresses, signifying their hope for a "marriage" between feuding religious and regional cultures. The two had already motored through the Balkans, and planned to visit Syria, Lebanon, and Israel. After a stay in Istanbul, Bacca departed on a solo leg of her journey. Somewhere around the industrial town of Gebze, she was picked up by Murat Karatas, an itinerant laborer and convicted thief, who has confessed to her murder. Moro, meanwhile, has pledged to complete the performance.

Olafur Eliasson waterfalls to cool down NYC's summer more »

Photographer Louise Lawler and the secret life of art more »

Damien Hirst's embalmed lamb at BCAM under armed security more »

Big-name galleries open in Hong Kong more »

MoMA's Glossolalia hailed as its best drawing show in years more »

Deconstructivist studio Coop Himmelb(l)au builds LA high school more »

List of Britain's best buildings stirs up controversy more »

Big art dominating Chelsea scene more »

How do you preserve temporal art? more »

Catching up with the Freeze artists, 20 years on more »

Brad Pitt to design luxury hotel in Dubai more »

Woodwork artist Alison Elizabeth Taylor brings back Renaissance techniques more »

Zaha Hadid is latest starchitect to build in Warsaw more »

CalArts MFAs take over Chinatown more »

High price expected for Jeff Koons' Balloon Flower (Magenta) more »

Graf art here to stay more »

Buyers vie for Frank Lloyd Wright houses more »

Philadelphia museum director Anne d'Harnoncourt dies at 64 more »

Younger Chinese artists look to stake out space amid market hype more »

How Russian billionaires are changing the British art market more »

Sculptor Timothy Horn's new sweetly ornate, sugar-encrusted pieces more »

Anish Kapoor sculptures surveyed in three shows more »

Sony turns to rock 'n roll photos for income more »

Beijing art district threatened with demolition more »

Contemporary art dealer John Weber dies at 75 more »

Note: Some online publications require registration to access the articles. If you encounter a registration screen, try a shared username and password from BugMeNot.

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[ New Tokyo Contemporaries ]


Food Creation / AKB48 / Shinro Ohtake

China is an ever-expanding art juggernaut, abetted by a market eager to seize on its prolific output. Indian art is booming, led by charismatic conceptual sculptor Subodh Gupta, who has drawn comparisons to YBA figurehead Damien Hirst. Korea's unconventional scene entices with front-page scandals, from curators faking academic credentials to slush funds for multimillion-dollar works by Frank Stella and Roy Lichtenstein. Yet contemporary art in Japan remains somewhat overshadowed by the nation's cutting-edge design and architecture, funky fashion, and Michelin-approved nonpareil cuisine.

Change, however, is in the air, as a new generation of commercial galleries in Tokyo creates an opening for emerging artists while reinventing established names. Zenshi, founded in 2005 in the Kiyosumi Art Complex next to major dealers Tomio Koyama, Hiromi Yoshii, and Taka Ishii, focuses on a subcultural aesthetic, which informs the colorful paper-cuttings and freakish portraits of Tai Ogawa, who debuted at the gallery in April. In the city's trendy Nakameguro district, also home to Mizuma Art Gallery, AOYAMA | MEGURO takes a conceptual approach with video and installation artist Koki Tanaka. Across town, in the Suginami ward, Mujin-to Production promotes artist group Chim↑Pom — pupils of irreverent mixed-media artist Makoto Aida — whose projects include traveling to Cambodia to blow up luxury goods with recovered land mines. Elsewhere, in Toshima, Misako & Rosen recently featured Chaguin, a collaborative project between Yoshitomo Nara and Hiroshi Sugito, as well as the stylish figurative work of Shimon Minamikawa.

ARATANIURANO, which opened in the upscale Ginza district in 2007, balances its program with dreamy paintings and sculptures of totemic figures by Izumi Kato (included in last year's Venice Biennale) and the lyric, autobiographical paintings and drawings of 26-year-old Youichi Umetsu. In January 2008, Azabu gallery Take Ninagawa devoted its packed premiere exhibition to the bricolage-style fantasy-scapes of New York-based artist Misaki Kawai, and then scored a coup with its ongoing three-part solo show of seminal '80s collagist and rock artist Shinro Ohtake. Even superflat kingpin Takashi Murakami is in on the act, unveiling his Kaikai Kiki Gallery this past March. The gallery followed its debut group show, which included new cosplayer paintings by otaku artist Mr., with the first solo show in Japan for Rei Sato, who overlays photographic prints with wispy line drawings.

Never one to rest on his laurels, Murakami relaunched his biannual GEISAI competitive art fair for artists without gallery representation in May, after a year's hiatus. This followed April's inaugural 101 Tokyo Contemporary Art Fair, which featured young local dealers, as well as New York's ATM Gallery, with paintings by Kyoto artist Saeko Takagi, and Peter Kilchmann from Zürich, who brought a suitcase of art works by Rita Ackermann.

101 Tokyo Contemporary coincided with the third Art Fair Tokyo, a blitz of openings at the Kiyosumi Art Complex, and an exhibition in commercial space by the newly established young-gallery association New Tokyo Contemporaries. While it remains to be seen how far this momentum will carry over internationally, there's no doubt that Tokyo art watchers are enjoying the new influx of events and exhibitions.  - Andrew Maerkle

Kato Izumi and Youichi Umetsu are included in a group exhibition of gallery artists at ARATANIURANO through June 28. Shinro Ohtake continues at Take Ninagawa through August. Rei Sato's debut exhibition at New York’s Lehmann Maupin Gallery takes place from June 26 to August 8.

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  Roger Ballen: Photographs

Quality Pictures Contemporary Art
Now through June 28

Life and death commingle in photographer Roger Ballen's theatre of the bizarre. Small children, corrugated tin, live animals, and skinned game function as props in his exactingly composed black-and-white images. Ballen creates unnerving scenarios laced with hints of impending violence, such as the meeting of a brindled cat, a white rabbit, and spindly bits of litter in Animal Abstraction. Place of the Upside Down captures a wall with a demented, chalk-drawn figure and a puppy in pursuit of a mouse, and in Companion, a mangy duck sits on a sleeping figure. The Johannesburg-based Ballen takes characters plucked from Weegee's gritty New York and transposes them into haunting, surreal compositions that examine the poverty of rural white South Africa with spectacular formal acuity.  - Adda Birnir

  Matthew Brannon: The Question Is a Compliment
New York

Friedrich Petzel Gallery
Now through July 11

Matthew Brannon's latest installation of letterpress and silkscreen prints and sculptures perfectly complements his well-executed room at the Whitney Biennial. There, Brannon mounted simple, graphic prints offset with suggestive text on noise-canceling room dividers, evoking the sense of a cosmopolitan malaise teeming below the slick surface of modern life. At Friedrich Petzel, the narratives of the candy-colored prints are different, but the themes are the same: the young, urban afflictions of sex, consumerism, and careerism. The two pairs of sleek Barneys pumps depicted in Role Playing, If They Only Knew — elegantly framed and hung on a purple-grained wooden divider — could easily grace the cover of a chick-lit novel. But it's Brannon's elliptical and noir-ish use of language that elevates this exhibition, in an intriguing take on pop art and pulp fiction.  - Cynthia Lugo

  Sophie von Hellermann: Accidental Portraits

Vilma Gold
Now through June 15

Munich-born, London-based artist Sophie von Hellermann returns to London's Vilma Gold with Accidental Portraits. The artist's distinctive application of pigment and acrylic emulsion colors a series of 12 large-scale canvases that veers toward the surreal, with intermittent references to literary figures and mythologies. Of special note is The Birth of Minerva, which, tucked away in the gallery office, forcefully captures baby Minerva's birth from Jupiter's head (coincidently, the gallery is on Minerva Street). Similar vigor is present in It Began in Naples, in which a colossal woman ambiguously towers over, or stumbles past, a ghostly motorcyclist. Other works slide across the canvas in a watery miasma; it's when von Hellermann exploits unsettling narratives that she's at her dreamy best.  - Helen Holtom

  João Pedro Vale: Festa dos Rapazes

Layr Wuestenhagen Contemporary
Now through July 26

For his second solo show at Vienna's Layr Wuestenhagen gallery, Lisbon-based artist João Pedro Vale presents seven new sculptures to illustrate an invented pagan mythology. The exhibition's title — literally, "Boys' Party" — refers to a masked rite performed by young men in agrarian Portuguese communities to celebrate the cyclical patterns of the universe. Citing similar festivities in the Caribbean, Spain, and Switzerland, Vale creates a fictive cultural identity with its own idiosyncratic ritual items constructed from contemporary, commonplace materials. Die Schö-würschte is a donkey made from plastic leaves, and La Vijanera's woolly monster is created out of blonde wigs. Elsewhere, glitter-bedecked bust Dancing Devil casts its gaze alongside Momo, a pockmarked, frightful face that's caked with ash; together, the two ghouls leer at viewers, inviting them into Vale's idolatry.  - Joel Withrow

  Yudi Noor: Shadow and the Other Side of Entroducing Life

Galerie Birgit Ostermeier
Now through June 21

In his new solo exhibition at Galerie Birgit Ostermeier, Indonesian artist Yudi Noor examines the spiritual and ethical implications of aesthetic objects. Noor overlays traditional crafts with conceptualist flourishes in eight enigmatic sculptures and three collages. Resembling some esoteric altar, Die Hunde bellen und der Prophet geht Rock 'n Roll comprises a tree root sheltering a bell and prayer bowl, all laid atop a painted Indonesian tobacco-cutting board, two flashlights, and a skateboard. In Don't think twice it's a fake, Noor wryly comments on the Western import and appropriation of Eastern objects by spray-painting antique wood scaffolding in neon colors. Additionally, Noor's embroidered collages and large, freestanding blackboards subtly address the environmental impact of Western textile production in Indonesia and further frame his ruminations on cross-cultural exchange.  - Sarah Stephenson

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[ Tomoo Gokita ]


Tomoo Gokita

Born in 1969, Japanese artist Tomoo Gokita has only recently gained recognition among the art-world elite. The Tokyo-based, self-taught artist began his career with ink and charcoal drawings, but has transitioned to painting in recent years. In both media, his work engages a conceptual interest in the distortion of the beautiful while grappling with the tension between abstraction and representation.

Gokita's 2006 New York solo debut at ATM Gallery comprised a range of canvases and works on paper, including charcoal drawing Mud Mayhem, which depicts a catfight between two buxom women. However, the artist undercut the scene's sleazy eroticism with a monochromatic palette and cartoonish postures, casting one woman's expression of anguish and rage in an absurdly stiff grimace. In the same exhibition, pure abstractions such as Multinational Corporations offered undulating visions of bulbous, organic forms.

The following year, Gokita enjoyed a major show of mostly black-and-white gouache paintings at LA's Honor Fraser. The shift in medium certainly expanded the artist's visual range, if not his chosen themes. Working with broad brushes and persistent grayscale shading, Gokita endowed his subjects with crudely sculptural contours, rendering faces and hourglass figures in blocky, gestural strokes.

The artist continues to refine his approach; in the new work Caroline, he portrays a woman sitting in front of a vague ocean landscape, one hand provocatively draped between her thighs. He deftly shadows the woman's deep cleavage, but supplants her face with thick bands of paint. As in John Currin's paintings, Gokita's contorted portraits — with their stark gradients, geometric shapes, and disfigurations — dismantle an idealized pinup aesthetic.

While the artist's Honor Fraser exhibition signaled a decisive stylistic break for him, it was Gokita's one-man show this past April at Taka Ishii Gallery, in his hometown of Tokyo, that cemented his reputation as one of Japan's most exciting working artists.  - Adam Eaker

Tomoo Gokita's work is on view in Defining a Moment: 25 New York Artists at the House of Campari in New York through June 15 and in Mail Order Monsters, a group show curated by Deitch Projects director Kathy Grayson, at Athen’s Andreas Melas Presents, through August 15.

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[ Tomoko Sawada ]  

Tomoko Sawada
View more images »
Tomoko Sawada is a fast-rising star in Japan's contemporary photography scene. Her self-portraits from the past decade explore the endless permutations of a national female identity. Japanese independent curator Noriko Fuku — who co-organized New York's International Center for Photography group show Heavy Light: Recent Photography and Video from Japan with ICP curator Christopher Phillips — talks to Sawada about her work and the ideas behind her multiple photographic selves.
NF: The first time I saw your work was in the New Cosmos of Photography catalogue in 2000. Your work ID400 (1999) won the Special Prize. At the time, I had a hunch that you were from the Kansai region. Your work has a particularly Kansai sense of vitality and humor. Can you tell me a bit about that work and how you came to make it?

TS: I first came across self-portraiture as a student in junior college. After transferring to a university, I began to focus on photography. I studied the history of photography, as well as the work of contemporary photographers from around the world, while learning the newest techniques on a daily basis. There was so much to absorb, and I learned a lot about artists that had been unknown to me. Soon I had absolutely no idea what kind of work I wanted to make, but I kept returning to self-portraiture as the mode of expression that fit me best. One day, as I was coming home from school, the idea of ID400 appeared right before my eyes. I love fashion, but when you make even a slight change in your style of clothes, the reaction from those around you can be dramatic. That was a mystery to me. I began to wonder how people would respond if I changed the way I look. I also wondered whether an external change, such as in one's hairstyle or clothing, could cause an internal change. Now, ID photos are supposed to identify or verify a person's identity, right? And, of course, photographs are supposed to reproduce the truth. So I used the format of the ID photo to take several hundred pictures of myself with different faces and costumes, as if to say, "Can these pictures prove that I am who I am?" The answer is that not one of these pictures can do that. The peculiar nature of photography is that it copies reality, but also can't copy reality. With the ID series, my initial goal was to take 1,000 pictures. I went to places that had ID photo booths and took pictures of myself. By the time the count reached 300, I had already developed ideas for my next series. Moreover, I realized that simply increasing the number of portraits would not enhance the meaning of the work, so I stopped at 400 pictures.

keep reading the interview »

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  Tokyolife: Art and Design
Ian Luna, Lauren A. Gould, Tom Mes, Jasper Sharp, Yoshida Mika, and David G. Imber

Tokyolife, a splendid overview of contemporary art and design from Japan's cultural capital, presents the work of more than 80 architects, industrial and fashion designers, filmmakers, painters, and photographers — with commentary from experts in each creative field. Milligram Architectural Studio's Suit G House and Shigeru Ban's Glass Shutter House make ingenious use of precious, tightly confined city plots, and stylish new products by Naoto Fukasawa and Tokujin Yoshioka offer conceptual approaches to industrial design. The snappy sportswear of A Bathing Ape and the streetwise, upscale fashions of Tsumori Chisato reflect the manga-inspired lifestyles of Tokyo's youth, and in film, the gangster storylines of director Takashi Miike expose the city's underbelly. Japan's internationally renowned master of pop art, Takashi Murakami, and his talented stable of Kaikai Kiki artists — including Chiho Aoshima, Aya Takano, and Mahomi Kunikata — dominate the book's art coverage, while photography, from fashion to fine art, gets a broader view, with portfolios of work by Mika Ninagawa, Naoki Honjo, and others.  - Paul Laster

Aya Takano's work is on view in a solo show at Galerie Emannuel Perrotin in Paris through June 14. A solo show of work by Takashi Murakami is on view at LA's Blum & Poe through June 14, while his retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum continues through July 13.

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Cover Art
Naoya Hatakeyama
Blast #5416, 1998
Chromogenic print
39 1/2 x 59 in./ 100 x 150 cm
© Collection International Center of Photography, New York
All Rights Reserved

Paul Laster

Deputy Editor
Joel Withrow

News Editor
Greg Zinman

Reviews Editor
H.G. Masters

Contributing Editors
Adda Birnir
Jennifer Y. Chen
Erin Cowgill
Shana Nys Dambrot
Sarah Kessler
Doug Levy
Andrew Maerkle
Mark Mangan
Bryony Roberts
Marlyne Sahakian
Peter Stepek
Sarah Stephenson

Adam Eaker
Helen Holtom
Cynthia Lugo
Lauren McKee

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Jessica Bauer-Greene
Mark Barry

Anna S. Altman
Morgan Croney
Andrew Steinmetz
Daphne Yang

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