Adrian Favell

  • picks February 09, 2018

    Miyako Ishiuchi

    In this retrospective of the influential photographer Miyako Ishiuchi, her most famous work is left for the end: the series “ひ ろ し ま / hiroshima,” 2007–, vivid color stills of clothing and relics of victims of the 1945 bombing. A delicate white dress floats against a blank backdrop, stained, as it was peeled off charred flesh. On Barack and Michelle Obama’s state visit to Japan in 2016, the First Lady was presented with a memorial catalogue of these works, which she received with quiet respect. One can only wonder what the current US president would have said.

    A sequence of color-coded rooms,

  • picks April 06, 2015

    Enoki Chu

    Japanese artist Enoki Chu’s London debut includes forty cast-iron replicas of AK-47 (Kalashnikov) and AR-15 (Colt) machine guns, lined up like samples in the boutique windows of this gallery (AK-47/AR-15", 2000–03). Inside, there is also a massive replica cannon, one of a series of demilitarized weapons which this tiny, mischievous seventy-year-old has built for his alternate militia: a “Life Self Defense Force,” preaching self-empowerment against the repressive forces of society. He often takes the weapons to friends’ parties or weddings, firing flowers or confetti in deafening celebration. On

  • picks December 02, 2013

    Yukinori Yanagi

    Japanese neo-Pop pioneer Yukinori Yanagi has had relatively low international visibility in recent years. After his definitive return to Japan from New York in 2000, his work took on an altogether different scale, both temporally and spatially, involving the artistic transformation of industrially despoiled, semiabandoned volcanic islands in Japan’s Inland Sea. The pieces in this exhibition are windows to a vastly ambitious new endeavor: the Art Base Momoshima project, commenced in November 2012 in a former junior high school on a small island near Hiroshima.

    Using oil, graphite, and emulsion on

  • picks August 21, 2013

    Shimabuku

    Berlin-based global rover Shimabuku has long been recognized in his native Japan as a pioneer of social and relational art. This first extensive international retrospective offers a satisfying overview of his gently humorous musings on everyday life and community, usually in the form of videos, installations, and photographic narratives about the places he visits and people he meets. Birmingham’s neo-gothic late-Victorian Ikon Gallery—a kind of kunsthalle in a former school—offers an elegant backdrop, its various spaces allowing for an appropriately roomy show, which puts a special emphasis on

  • picks January 23, 2013

    Tadasu Takamine

    Observers of Japanese contemporary art often complain about its apparent lack of political content. The combined tsunami and nuclear disasters of March 2011 have begun to change this; “Tadasu Takamine’s Cool Japan” is perhaps the best-realized reflection yet on the social consequences of the catastrophic nuclear meltdown at Fukushima.

    The show parodies the asinine branding of Japan as “cool”—an effort launched by the nation’s government in the early 2000s—which helped artists such as Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara find worldwide fame. Using this PR campaign as a foil, Takamine creates a

  • picks August 14, 2012

    Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale 2012

    A year and a half after the Tohoku earthquake in Japan, art director Fram Kitagawa’s vision of an art treasure hunt set in the bucolic but run-down villages, rice fields, mountains, and river valleys of this remote northern province is more relevant that ever. The Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale looks to create a new meaning for the practice of art installation, one capable of revitalizing the backwaters of Japan’s perpetually postbubble, postdisaster society. In this, the triennial’s fifth iteration, spread out over four hundred and fifty square miles, some three hundred participating artists and

  • picks August 07, 2011

    Kohei Nawa

    Although Kohei Nawa is still under forty, the Kyoto-based sculptor’s elegant experimental minimalism is well known in Japan. Globally, though, its another story. This comprehensive sampling of his work at Tokyo’s premier contemporary art museum posits him as the forerunner of a new generation.

    Nawa tackles the question of how traditional sculpture can be reimagined under the influence of digital technology. His signature work has involved acquiring everyday “dead” objects––whether consumer products or large taxidermied animals––then resurrecting them with new surfaces, in the form of what Nawa

  • picks June 09, 2011

    “The Group 1965 - We Are Boys!”

    The Group 1965, aka Showa 40 Nen Kai, occupies a central place in Japanese contemporary art, although the six-man collective is largely unknown in the West. The group’s name absurdly evokes the banal fact that the members were all born in the fortieth year of Emperor Hirohito––a generation that matured during the creative foment of Japan’s late-1980s economic “bubble” and its dramatic, decadent aftermath. For seventeen years they have made sporadic collaborations, performances, and off-the-wall experimentations, self-styled as the last in a long line of neo-Dada avant-garde artists.

    The Kunsthalle

  • picks April 13, 2011

    Marina Kappos

    Artist Marina Kappos, now based in Brooklyn, was born and bred in LA. She returns home with this exhibition, a follow up to her well-received 2008 show “Politicus,” which reflected pictorially on the Obama election. “Peep Show” reveals the continuing influence of Japanese graphic imagery and techniques on her work. It presents a sequence of works in various sizes built around a small nude painting that evokes Hokusai’s famous 1814 woodcut The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. Putting to good use the cropped drama of what might be a manga-style storyboard, Kappos transforms the paraphenalia of

  • picks June 01, 2010

    Polixeni Papapetrou

    Under pressure both from a media scandal over previous work featuring her daughter and from a growing legal reluctance worldwide to allow photos of children to be displayed in public, photographer Polixeni Papapetrou has found a new way to seek out strangeness and malevolence at the edge of nostalgic childhood innocence. Her latest exhibition, “Between Worlds,” presents a series of large-scale theatrical tableaux wherein figures—children or young adults of indeterminate sex—pose as characters masked in large animal heads and wearing quaint costumes. They appear to be playing out archetypes or

  • picks May 21, 2010

    “Roppongi Crossing 2010: Can There Be Art?”

    In this third incarnation of the once-every-three-years exhibition of the best in Japanese contemporary art, the curators emphasize an inward focus on the national experience of decline and doubt since the early 1990s. The exhibition contains a well-coordinated selection of work by twenty artists and collectives. It flows from quiet to noise and from inner worlds to populous street life, centering on contemporary trends within Japan that bear the influence of the Kyoto-based performance art collective Dumb Type. Their dance/theater performances from the late ’80s and early ’90s, which focused