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Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008
Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo
Closes Sept. 28
Someone recently told me they find it hard to think in the Tokyo summer heat. In the cool of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo's current exhibition, "Parallel Worlds," they won't have to while perusing this light show of high-spirited art. Main artist and curator Hugues Reip leads off the first room with humorous pieces that play on the natural world. His best are works that use light, as in "Eclair 2," a depiction of lightning done in fluorescent tubes; "Flip/Flop," four rectangles with shifting dots; and "Shirei-seirie," a shadow play that riffs on Japanese monsters, a popular summer theme.
Among the 21 French and Japanese artists in "Parallel Worlds," the stars of the show are 53-year-old Alain Sechas and 33-year-old Kohei Nawa. Sechas' stark black and white paintings might be easy to miss in the jumble of sculptural and video works, but they deserve a close look. Done in seemingly sloppy black, white and gray washes, his series "Foggy Days" uses a minimum of precision to create a maximum of information in depictions of humans with cats' heads slaloming down ski slopes, riding in cars and encountering each other in the city. The cats' heads take away from the gravity of the images, but make the characters easily recognizable amid the almost abstract backgrounds.
Nawa, well known for his "PixCell" series, fills an eerily white room with clear boxes containing mounted animals. The glass of the boxes bends the light so that it's difficult to discover the actual location of the creatures — among them a deer, a flamingo and a parakeet. This has the greatest presence of the exhibits and could spark all sorts of philosophical conversations about existence and our relationship to nature, if you did want to get heavy.
If you didn't, a trip to the MOT is a fine way to coolly maintain your August daze. Fleshed out with the other works in "Parallel Worlds," and in combo with the MOT's permanent collection, to which the ticket gives you access, and the Bloomberg-sponsored mountain of aluminum foil by Kimihiko Okada, there's plenty of eye candy to behold.