San Francisco

“Against Nature”

San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)

“Against Nature: Japanese Art in the Eighties” attempts the impossible task of encapsulating a distant art scene using the works of 10 artists (nine individuals plus the Dumb Type performance group). The show is a collaboration between two American curators, Kathy Halbreich and Thomas Sokolowski, and two Japanese, Fumio Nanjo and Shinji Kohmoto. Unfortunately, the selection of work seems both too sparse and too ill-focused to make convincing any inferences about Japanese art in the ’80s.

The show and its catalogue argue that the most vital, independent current in recent Japanese art is one that rejects nature-centered esthetics and embraces the commercial artifice of the Japanese urban environment. Trouble is, most of the art marshaled to illustrate this argument is unremarkable to Western eyes and does not begin to evoke the sensory overload that foreign visitors (arid apparently residents

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