Co-organized by Haifa Museums and the Japan Foundation, and supported by the Embassy of Japan in Israel, ‘Double Vision’ brings together 30 Japanese artists to offer opposing views of Japanese society – the ‘imaginary’ and the ‘real’ – as seen by different generations. Designed to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Japan, the exhibition was shown simultaneously in two museums in Haifa from 22 July – 21 October 2012 in the Haifa Museum of Art and the Museum of Japanese Art.
I visited Haifa Museum of Art on 28 Sept 2012, having noticed Yanobe Kenji’s ‘Sun Child’ from across the street as I came out of Chagall’s Artist House after looking at another exhibition there. Besides promoting friendly relations between two nations of Japan and Israel, ‘Double Vision’ refers to the eyes of two curators attempting to introduce Japanese art to Israeli audience:
- Kenjiro Hosaka, curator from National Museum of Modern Art, in Tokyo, Japan
- Elena Yachnikova, an independent critic and curator from Moscow, Russia
The exhibition carried two themes, ‘Reality / Ordinary World’ and ‘Imaginary World / Phantasms’, and contained sculptures, installation, multi-media work and video/film work over several floors in one of these two themes.
Overall, the exhibition felt like a success, and seems to have accomplished the aim of bringing art that is probably very fresh and new to Israeli eyes. To be honest, when I went into the museum, I had not been into an art gallery in Israel before, so had no expectations – and was very pleasantly surprised at the high standard of presentation and professionalism throughout. Not only that, I am well-familiar with quite a few of the more established artists represented – another surprise. These are artists I had seen also in London exhibitions (Yayoi Kusama, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara to name a few). Double bonus – I “discovered” a few artists new to me, which made this show even more exciting and a joy to explore. With a mix of some younger artists and some well-established, this seemed like a high-quality and comprehensive view of Japanese contemporary art that I never expected to encounter, and certainly not in Haifa.
‘Imaginary World/ Phantasms’
The first piece that caught my attention of Yanobe Kenji’s installation of a man and a dog in what looks like an old-fashioned diving suit. At first comical, the gravity of the work hits a moment later. The reference to the 1991 accident at Mihama Nuclear Power Plant or perhaps the 1995 Sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo subway is suddenly clear (and the dog in radiation suit is not so cute after all). Although Yanobe’s work is often about impending doom, his ‘Sun Child’ statue (standing sentry at the door of the Haifa Museum of Art) carries the new theme of revival and courage, describing a character who, in Yanobe’s words, will “overcome difficulties and build the world of the future”.
An exhibition of important Japanese artists is not complete without Yayoi Kusama – and “Double Vision” does not disappoint. In “I’m Here, But Nothing”, the viewer feels a sense of disorientation and lightness which may shortly be followed by nausea if I had stayed in the room too long. The space contains furniture that could be in any house around the corner, but soon becomes strange and floaty in the blue light as flourescent dots seem to swirl and flow in dizzying array, though they are stuck – on chairs, teacups, tables, walls, all around. One does quickly start to understand the feeling of self-obliteration which is ever-present in Kusama’s installations.
‘Reality / Ordinary World’
Nearby Yanobe’s work stands a deceptively simple installation of a few tree branches on cement blocks, by Kishio Suga who is a prominent member of the ‘School of Things’ [Mono-ha] movement, which emerged at the end of the 60’s in Japan. For the Mono-ha artist, the artwork is “… a ‘thing’ that is inseparable from its surrounding space”. Suga goes on to explain that what is most important for a “thing” is that it comes together in a situation that makes the relationship between audience, place and thing obvious. Thus, in a piece such as “Separating Space”, the art nears reality and in the artist’s hands, “…the thing is commensurate with nature” (from the exhibition book).
More information and links
- Notes on ‘Double Vision – Contemporary Art from Japan’ from Haifa Museum of Art – 22 July 2012
- Info about Double Vision from imaginepeace.com
- Overview of the exhibition from The Japan Foundation
- Embassy of Japan in Haifa, Israel overview of Double Vision
- Review of Double Vision by Graham Lawson of the Jerusalem Post
- Haifa Museum of Art is one of several organisations supported in Israel in part by Zabludowicz Art Projects (Zabludowicz Collection) based in London, UK.
“From sponsoring of exhibitions or art fairs, to assistance with equipment and advice, philanthropy is at the heart of the Zabludowicz Collections activities…” from Zabludowicz Collection – Philanthropy page.
- Haifa Museum of Art’s main website: www.hma.org.il
- Visit National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan (website in Japanese, English, French, German, Chinese, and Korean)
Exhibition details: Double Vision – Contemporary Art from Japan is showing in both Haifa Museum of Art and Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art, in Haifa, Israel from 22 July through 21 October, 2012. Paid entrance, concessions.
The artists showing work in ‘Double Vision’ are: Chim|Pom, contact Gonzo, dumb type, Takashi Homma, Kohei Kobayashi, Yasumasa Morimura, Yoshinori Niwa, Yoko Ono, Shinro Ohtake, Tsuyoshi Ozawa, Toshio Shibata, Lieko Shiga, Kishio Suga, Tadasu Takamine, Yuken Teruya, Tetsuya Umeda, Mokoto Aida, Takashi Ishida, Takahiro Iwasaki, Izumi Kato, Yayoi Kusama, Tatsuo Miyajima, Takashi Murakami, Yoshitomo Nara, Motohiko Odani, Hiraki Sawa, Yoshihiro Suda, Yamaguchi Akira, Kenji Yanobe, and Tadanori Yokoo.