Posted:Dec 30, 2019

10 Things in Tokyo: November 2019

Events and exhibitions happening this month in Tokyo and beyond

Camille Henrot's 'Stepping on a Serpent' at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery
Camille Henrot's 'Stepping on a Serpent' at Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery

Naoki Tomita is known for entrancing portraits and lonesome scenes rendered in thickly applied paint. Tokyo at Maho Kubota Gallery presents new oil paintings of unpopulated cityscapes in central and suburban Tokyo. Through November 22.

As the Inevitable Spin of a Light Bulb and a Fan on a marble table by Junya Kataoka and Rie Iwatake features kinetic installations of everyday objects diverted from their original purposes. The show’s title comes from a poem by Comte de Lautréamont, an influencer of Surrealists who were also interested in the disorienting effects of removing objects from their formal contexts. At Kana Kawanishi Gallery in Kiyosumi Shirakawa through November 30.

The Tobacco & Salt Museum in Sumida Ward is showing Miniature Exhibition: Great Beauty in Small Things, which spotlights the recently relocated museum’s prewar collection of some 1,500 netsuke amulets, tobacco pouches, and other diminutive items. These tiny treasures were made with working parts in intricate detail by master artisans such as Rekisai Kobayashi. Ends December 1.

Meo Saito and Temple of Flora at Meguro Museum of Art presents the up-and-coming artist’s botanical illustrations blurring the lines between the gorgeous and the grotesque. Until December 1. This exhibition is eligible for admission discounts with the MuPon and TAB apps.

Painting into Sculpture – Embodiment in Form at Kawamura Memorial DIC Museum of Art in Chiba Prefecture illuminates the relationship between painting and sculpture through pieces by 20th century avant-gardists who worked in both media. Paintings by artists such as Picasso, Miró, Magritte, Okamoto, de Kooning, and Twombly are paired with the sculptures that evolved out of two-dimensional works. Ends December 8. This exhibition is also eligible for admission discounts with the MuPon and TAB apps.

Camille Henrot’s Stepping on a Serpent combines the archeological urge to collect and catalog with contemporary art’s tendency towards the obscure. The French artist presents installations of bric-a-brac as if they could be academic specimens of human civilization, while leaving questions of their significance ultimately unanswered. Highlights include her literary collaboration with the Sogetsu ikebana school, described as a “library of books translated into flowers,” and her Silver Lion-winning video “Gross Fatigue” putting footage from the Smithsonian to a spoken-word beat. At Tokyo Opera City Art Gallery until December 15. MuPon and TAB discounts.

Don’t miss a rare opportunity to see the great Abstract Expressionist Jasper Johns’ Usuyuki paintings, drawings, and prints. Meaning “light snow,” the series created in Japan over 25 years features cross-hatched lines in a variety of color palettes, evoking meditative themes of impermanence and renewal. At Fergus McCaffrey, Tokyo through December 21.

Awakening Photographs: Michiko Kon and Tokihiro Sato at Fujifilm Square spotlights two artists interested in “the alchemy of photography.” Part II focuses on Sato in 20 works, including those from the ‘Photo-Respiration’ series that experiments with long exposures capturing traces of light. Ends December 27.

The creative unit Mé caught attention at this year’s Roppongi Crossing with a massive sculpture resembling undulating waves. Now, inspired by the reversal of magnetic poles in Chiba thousands of years ago, the group presents its first large-scale exhibition. Titled Mé: Obviviously, no one can make heads nor tails, the show alludes to the mystery and precariousness of our existence and again presents dynamic, room-filling installations that play with viewers’ perceptions. At Chiba City Museum of Art November 2 through December 28. MuPon and TAB discounts.

The Container presents Defiance and Decadence Under Apartheid, a selection of works by the South African photographer Billy Monk. Featured for the first time in Asia, Monk documented Cape Town subcultures in black and white. These images show people from around the world and all walks of life – from local gays and transgender women to Asian salarymen – as they mixed and reveled during an era of oppression. Some photographs are exhibited for the first time. Ends January 6.

Jennifer Pastore

Jennifer Pastore

Jennifer Pastore is a writer, editor, and translator. She was editor of Tokyo Art Beat's web magazine from 2015 to 2022. Her thoughts on the Japanese art scene can be found in publications like artscape Japan.