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exhibitions
 ARTIFACTS
Artist Mitsuhito Takeuchi is providing a bit of artistic excitement to the drab environment of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku. Takeuchi is best known in Japan for public art pieces, like decking out several trains in Kochi Prefecture, Shikoku, with wild colors and designs. As part of a new project, which is designed to stimulate energy and creativity within the hallowed government halls, the artist has created a large dynamic sculptural painting that delivers a colorful blow to the perfunctory lobby of one of Japan's largest office spaces. The piece is on display in Building 1 of the Metropolitan Government building until September 3. AC

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775: Twelve Travels
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504: Ino Tadataka and Old Maps of Japan/Fusuma Paintings of Jukoin
503: Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum
502: Happiness: A Survival Guide for Art and Life
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500: Taro Shinoda: Helicopter 1

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By Andrew Conti

Endo Akiko: Poetry of an Everlasting Life

A renowned Tokyo artist explores apocalypse and the city

Distant Silence-triptych-Herbal Sounds (left), Let Distant Return (center), Sounds of Winter (right), oil on canvas, each panel 333 x 249cm, 2002-04
Courtesy of private collection

To look at Akiko Endo's paintings is to be consumed in a world of her own devising. Hypnotic at first glance, similar to an Escher print in chaotic perspective and visual layering, Endo's works employ unending roads, swarms of people and an elemental force of nature to fashion monumental phantasmagorias.

This first major retrospective, at the Fuchu Museum of Art, gathers work from the past 20 years of this important contemporary Japanese artist's career. On view are numerous paintings on canvas as well as a few assorted drawings and sculptures.

Early efforts like Street (1980) or A View of the Ocean (1983) are compelling cityscapes in which subways and factories bind the canvases in tightly geometric configurations of warm and cool grays. The pedestrian crowds throughout the images are engaged in numerous activities, from lonely walking to games of baseball to street fights. It is enjoyable to search through the paintings' corners to view the many unfolding dramas, but the brooding and uncertain faces create a sense of foreboding. The layered imagery is approachable and accessible, yet it remains distant, as if formed from within some unknowable space.

Looking Up into the Sky, oil on canvas, 249x333cm, 1989
Courtesy of the Sagamihara City collection

In later paintings, these darker elements explode in apocalyptic narrative. A Cry Shakes Time (1994) has a blood-red sun rising at center as writhing humans and animals form a border around its vermillion void. Horizon (1995) is an expansive blue ocean in which the waves become demonic fish gorging on bodies amid the surf, calling to mind the brutal landscapes of Breughal or Bosch.

In contrast to those painters, Endo in her more recent pieces shows a distinct sense of hopefulness. The final room of the exhibition introduces the monolithic works that continue Endo's apocalyptic visions yet possess far more comforting and redemptive qualities.

The Flute Plays at Dusk, oil on canvas, 249x333cm, 1991
Courtesy of private collection

Three Equals One is a fiery city burning in cadmium flames at its top and soothed in watery blues at its bottom. In A Dream of Paradise (2000), a column of rainbow energy engulfs a city and its inhabitants in swirls of cool whites and blues, creating a peaceful refuge amidst catastrophe.

Also in these later images, Endo adds large animal overseers. Occasionally nesting in the negative space or described in shadows looming from above, this legion of painterly familiars adds another layer to the already mesmerizing details and imposing dimensions of the works.

The enormity of Endo's canvases raises interesting art historical questions as well. When the abstract expressionists assailed wall-sized canvases, they were acting in defiance of traditional easel painting. Endo, on the other hand, engages such sizes seemingly as a matter of course, responding to the painting's desires and her own powerful individualism.

In this way, Endo's importance cannot simply be relegated to her position as a female artist. She resides in the space of a total individual, a painter's painter with a determined separateness in which realizing her vision occupies her every artistic movement. Indeed, at the show's opening, she is quoted as saying, "To live is to paint. To remain alive is to remain painting."

Until Oct 3, ¥600 (adults), ¥300 (students), ¥150 (children). 1-3 Sengencho, Fuchu. Tel: 042-336-3371. Open Tue-Sun 10am-5pm. Nearest stn: Higashi-Fuchu (Keio line). www.art.city.fuchu.tokyo.jp