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IN A SKY FULL OF SHINING STARS, UNKNOWN GEMS CAN BE FOUND

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Marie SuzukiNorimitsu KOKUBOShogo HARAZUKAShota KATSUBEYuichiro UKAIIN A SKY FULL OF SHINING STARS, UNKNOWN GEMS CAN BE FOUNDIN A SKY FULL OF SHINING STARS, UNKNOWN GEMS CAN BE FOUND

Tokyo Shibuya Koendori Gallery, Tokyo
September 5 – December 6, 2020

This new, non-profit art space located in one of Tokyo’s most popular commercial districts opened earlier this year, only to see its activities suspended during the long stay-at-home period prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. Now active again, this venue, which is sponsored by the Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture, and managed in collaboration with curatorial specialists from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, has returned to its mission of promoting the work of self-taught Japanese and foreign artists.

Featuring works by 16 Japanese artists, plus the Americans Mr. Imagination and C. J. Pyle, this exhibition, like all of this new venue’s programming, offered local viewers an opportunity to deepen their understanding of what is still a relatively new phenomenon in Japan — art brut and, related to it, more broadly, outsider art — while situating the work of inventive self-taught artists within the widder context of the contemporary-art scene.

Among the works on view, Yoshihiro Watanabe’s tiny animal figures sculpted from folded leaves of the sawtooth oak tree were only a few centimeters tall; with his breath, the artist moistens the leaves before skillfully folding them into the abstracted shapes of horses, elephants, and dogs. Shota Katsube also works on a minuscule scale; on display were his remarkably expressive warrior figures crafted from colourful, metallic-foil twist ties collected from plastic bags.

Drawing in plain pencil on the backs of printed-paper advertising flyers, Shogo Harazuka produced detailed, aerial views of sprawling cities, whose rollicking, expansive perspectives brought to mind those of certain kinds of ancient, East Asian ink-wash paintings.  Sekio Minobe’s gentle geometric abstractions in coloured ink on paper suggested affinities with certain strains of classic modern art, while Toshio Okamoto’s expressionistic human figures in jet-black India ink, each one a monumental presence, seemed to burst out beyond the confines of the sheets of paper on which they were drawn.

Judiciously selected and imaginatively installed, In A Sky Full Of Shining Stars was an exhibition that really helped put a new venue on the map of Tokyo’s vibrant art scene.

Edward M. Gómez
Senior Editor
Raw Vision