The Genbi Shinkansen: Japan’s newest bullet train is the world’s fastest gallery, packed with contemporary art inside and out

GS 0

RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

From an engineering standpoint, Japan’s famed Shinkansen is already a work of art. Recently, though, the country’s bullet trains have been putting a renewed effort into their appearance, taking inspiration from centuries-old tradition and science-fiction anime.

The latest Shinkansen to be unveiled, though, incorporates design cues more modern than tatami reed floors yet not as futuristic as giant robots. Instead, it’s envisioned as a travelling gallery of contemporary art, allowing for what operator East Japan Railways calls “the world’s fastest art appreciation.”

A special train needs a special name, and the new Shinkansen has been christened Genbi, combining the kanji gen (), meaning “contemporary,” and bi (), “beauty.” The Genbi Shinkansen will run along the Joetsu Shinkansen line between Niigata and Echigo Yuzawa Stations in Niigata Prefecture.

▼ Fittingly, the kanji used in the Genbi Shinkansen’s logo are heavily stylized.

GS 1

Seven of the carriages will be used as art exhibition spaces, with different painters, sculptors, and visual creators represented in each. The contributing artists have been announced as Nao Matsumoto, Yusuke Komuta, Kentaro Kobuke, Naoki Ishikawa, Haruaka Kojin, and Brian Alfred.

GS 2

If you’d like your sense of taste to be stimulated along with your sight, there’s also a cafe. On the menu you’ll find sweets made with rice flour from Niigata’s prized (and pricy) Uonuma-grown Koshihikari rice and butter from dairies on Sadogashima Island.

GS 3

And it’s not like only passengers inside the train will have something pretty to look at, either. The non-windowed side of the Genbi Shinkansen’s exterior is covered with colorful photographs of Niigata’s Nagaoka Fireworks Festival, one of the largest in Japan, taken by photographer Mika Ninagawa.

GS 4

The Genbi Shinkansen goes into service next spring.

Ikenaga Yasunari’s dream-like paintings of women using the traditional Japanese style of Nihonga

Ikenaga Yasunari - Painting

Beautiful Decay (by Hayley Evans): 

Ikenaga Yasunari paints tranquil portraits of women immersed in elegant floral patterns. His work is a curious blend of traditional Japanese-style paintings (nihonga) and modern imagery. Whereas nihonga manifests itself in Yasunari’s bold, monochromatic contrasts and the absence of outlines in the patterns, the subjects are all donned in modern clothing, and their hair and makeup also convey a distinctly contemporary style. Yasunari’s chosen materials are based in tradition, involving a combination of sumi-ink (soot ink) and mineral pigments painted on linen cloth. In exploring modern subjects using traditional techniques, he reinvests an older cultural, artistic practice with an ongoing significance.

The beauty of Yasunari’s work arrives in the interplay between complexity and serenity; much like Gustav Klimt’s decorative paintings wherein patterns coalesce around a highlighted female figure, Yasunari’s works strike a balance between the undulating, seamless background and the subject embraced in its flow. The gentle sepia tones likewise enhance the paintings’ quiet, almost autumnal, atmosphere. Blending gentle imagery with harmonious compositions, Yasunari’s works are meditative portraits embodying youth, reverie, and dreams.

Visit Yasunari’s website to view more of his works.

Ikenaga Yasunari - Painting

Ikenaga Yasunari - Painting

Ikenaga Yasunari - PaintingIkenaga Yasunari - PaintingIkenaga Yasunari - PaintingIkenaga Yasunari - PaintingIkenaga Yasunari - PaintingIkenaga Yasunari - PaintingIkenaga Yasunari - PaintingIkenaga Yasunari - Painting

POW! WOW! Hawaii From the Eyes of Renowned Street Artist Ron English

Best known for his POPaganda series, renowned contemporary painter and street artist Ron English creates art combining high and low iconography gleaned from well known pop culture. He was recently in Hawaii, participating in the POW! WOW! Hawaii festival that brought together many different street artists — all with one task — to create murals based on Hawaii’s marine life.

In this video, English takes us around Hawaii through his eyes, introducing us to various artists from around the world participating in the festival as well. We get a good look at the variety of styles and backgrounds of these artists, as well as an inside look into their inspirations and creative process.

Yayoi Kusama becomes the most expensive living female artist with the $7.1 million sale of ‘White 28′

Raking in an earth shattering $853 million in profits, Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Evening on Wednesday smashed its May auction’s $745 million profit record, selling 75 of 80 listed works.

Proof she’s still killing the game at 85, Japanese installation artist and painter Yayoi Kusama set a record of her own, becoming the most expensive living female artist of all time with the $7.1 million sale of ‘White 28′ from her iconic 1960 ‘Infinity Nets’ series. The Louis Vuitton collaborator topped a record set three years earlier with the $6.6 million sale of Cady Noland’s ‘Oozewald’.

The New York auction also saw the $26 million sale of Jeff Koons‘ ‘Balloon Monkey (Orange)’ and two pieces by Andy Warhol –’Triple Elvis [Ferus Type]‘ and ‘Four Marlons’ for a dizzying $150 million.

Exhibition Review: Zhai Liang – “New York is a Big Liar”


Beyond China Town:


Zhai Liang’s (翟倞) three-month stay in New York City for his residency at Fou Gallery was his first time outside of his home country of China.  New York is a Big Liar(“纽约是个大骗子” / “紐約是個大騙子”) his first US solo exhibition, is a visual diary of what he saw.  Like many visitors, he traversed the streets, people watched, and explored museums, but he has a unique presentation of a familiar city and punctuates it with a provocative title.  Over nine watercolor paintings, he shifts from reality and plain observation to fantasy and overt social criticism.

When you tour the exhibition, imagine yourself on a tour of New York.  Start on the left and work your way clockwise around the gallery.  A length of windows roughly splits the exhibition in two and presents a view of the city, an intermission, as you walk from one side of the gallery to the other. 

Absent from the hodge podge of scenes are the typical New York City identifiers — the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty, Times Square, bodegas, brownstones, street signs.   In stripping away the distraction of a backdrop, the focus is on what Zhai has chosen to remember.  They are recognizable components of New York that everybody, natives and tourists alike, see.

“Still Pigeon” and “One Just Stand There Staring Blankly, When Another Just Pass By…” are inspired by typical street scenes.  Why is the pigeon still?  They are never still.  Two men on the street.  Just an observation.

You may notice that “Still Pigeon” is slightly narrower than its frame.  Exhibition curator and Fou Gallery co-owner Echo He explained that Zhai took advantage of this accidental mismeasurement and cleverly recovered by painting two spots on the mat board to give the area within the frame the appearance of a painter’s sketchbook. Recalling Magritte’s The Treachery of Images, the pigeon is not a pigeon.  From the very start, appearances are questioned.



12 X 16.1 IN. (30.5 X 40.6 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊



16.1 X 12 IN. (40.6 X 30.5 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊


“The Same Name” 3 and “The Same Name” 4 come from his visit to the American Museum of Natural History.  One is a straightforward representation of a human skull while the other looks like one of those uncanny reconstructed faces.  Placed slightly higher than eye-level, looking up at them is like looking up the evolutionary tree.


“The Same Name” 3, 2014 “同一个名字”3 Watercolor on Paper 纸上水彩 10 x 8 in. (25 x 20 cm) © 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊
“THE SAME NAME” 3, 2014

10 X 8 IN. (25 X 20 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊


“THE SAME NAME” 4, 2014

10 X 8 IN. (25 X 20 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊


With the sarcastic title “Appreciate”, he mocks idle museum goers (who I initially believed to be subway riders).  Commentary and cynicism are becoming more apparent.  The Little Italy a capellagroup in “Sing a Song” could be joyful but they are just busking for tourist dollars.  As Zhai shows in their postures, they’re so casual about it.

Zhai’s interest in groups of people who share a common purpose is an intriguing.



12 X 16.1 IN. (30.5 X 40.6 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊


“SING A SONG”, 2014

12 X 16.1 IN. (30.5 X 40.6 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊


In the press release, the images are said to “suddenly emerge from a void space”, as if they have been hidden and are now revealing themselves to us.  From another perspective, they are forming, imprinted like a memory in a blank space.  Removed from their environment into a barren void, even the most mundane subjects are surreal and silent.  I’m reminded of the mood in Edward Hopper’sNighthawks.  Take away everything but the people, and you have something that approaches a work from this exhibition.

If you’ve followed the suggested route, in the second half of the exhibition along the long wall of the gallery, you sense that the anonymous visitor is starting to see things not as they physically are but as he believes them to be.  He’s being overtaken by his opinions.

Sigmar Polke and David Lynch become one in “Sigmar Lynch”.  The Tennis Player (Tennisspieler)’s “beautiful and bland” (as described Hal Foster) charmer morphs with Eraserhead’s everyman Henry Spencer in the ultimate body horror.  It’s a view from the side as if it could not be viewed from directly from the front.


"Sigmar Lynch"

12 X 16.1 IN. (30.5 X 40.6 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊


In the surreal “Dark Heart of the America”, a scene from a social gathering — perhaps a party at home, business function, gallery reception — is reduced to its basic elements heads (with great looking hair), faces, and drinks.  Two smiling and attentive people are face to face with a literal dark heart.  Do they notice?  Do they care?  Is this reality perceived through a sixth sense or is he being judgmental?



16.1 X 12 IN. (40.6 X 30.5 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊


The visitor is detached and wholly consumed by his disapproval in the abstract “Pinocchio’s Face”where even inoccuous pieces of paper on tabletop are seen to represent the titular liar.  Pareidolia meets paranoia.



16.1 X 12 IN. (40.6 X 30.5 CM)
© 2014 翟倞, 致谢否画廊


Zhai’s painting process reflects his strong intuition and talent.  He applies watercolor paint to paper without first drawing or outlining the images.  As “Still Pigeon” shows, he adapts as needed.  The results are surprisingly detailed.  Folds of clothes, layers of feathers, facial features, and even individual fingers have been given form, adding a strange realism to the figures that from a distance appear as indistinct colors and shapes but are anonymous and indeterminate even up close.  It’s actually quite a strange effect.  You see the painting from afar and move closer expecting to see details but they are never quite defined.

Fou’s smart framing of the paintings in near invisible frames and sparse placement of them against a high white wall expand the voids where his painted subjects exist.  The flood of natural light in the gallery illume the textures Zhai has deftly created and the muted earth tone colors he has chosen.

Zhai is very aware that titles influence the viewing experience and leads the viewer with his titles.  It’s no mistake that quotation marks are part of the titles of the exhibition and paintings.  The twist is that the the words are not his own, but belong to an anonymous visitor whom Zhai has said is like himself, but has a different personality and is cynical.  Whose New York experience did we just experience?  Has Zhai overheard an anonymous visitor and witnessed his descent into cynicism and delusion?  Who is the person talking to?  Is it really Zhai hiding behind the quotation marks?

Fou displays the works without titles.  Like New Yorker cartoon caption contests, we’re given a chance to interpret the familiar scene and to try to figure out how they all make New York a big liar.


The exhibition is on view at Fou Gallery, 535 Dean Street, Apt 507, Brooklyn, through November 15, 2014.  The gallery is open 2 – 6 on Saturdays and open by appointment.

Taro Okamoto x Converse Japan Chuck Taylor All Star

Image of Taro Okamoto x Converse Japan Chuck Taylor All Star


Japanese artist Taro Okamoto’s best known for his progressive paintings and sculptures. This season, Converse Japan transcends the late artist’s sought-after motifs onto its celebrated Chuck Taylor All Star silhouette.

As part of the collaborative “Mr. Simple & Miss Decora” series, the sneaker features Okamoto’s trademark psychedelic print interspersed across its canvas upper, while a vulcanized rubber sole and toe cap offers a classic finish.

Priced at ¥9,000 JPY (approximately $90 USD), the Taro Okamoto x Converse Chuck Taylor All Star can now be purchased from Converse Japan.



Image of Taro Okamoto x Converse Japan Chuck Taylor All Star



Artist Profile: The dark, erotic world of Akino Kondoh



Born in Chiba, Japan, Akino Kondoh is an artist whose work spans various media from animation to manga to painting. Her work has been exhibited internationally and she has been living in New York for the past six years.

Kondoh’s illustrations have an otherworldly feel to them, and the subtle erotic undercurrents are handled with a unique and somber touch.


akino-kondoh_03 akino-kondoh_02 akino-kondoh_04 akino-kondoh_06 akino-kondoh_07 akino-kondoh_08 akino-kondoh_09 akino-kondoh_05 akino-kondoh_11 akino-kondoh_01 akino-kondoh_13 akino-kondoh_10



Artist Profile: Paintings by Christian Hidaka




Japan-born, London-based artist Christian Hidaka‘s paintings generally focus on three types of space: deserts, mountains and caves.

His images tend to “alienate themselves from traditional modes of landscape depiction: without a homely place of reference the viewer is left to wander in an alien world to explore possibility rather than impossibility.”


christian_ward_burial christian_ward_inside artwork_images_423788270_382043_christian-hidaka christian_ward_rock_circle 16321b cw-m3 Screen-shot-2013-05-27-at-10.22.02-PM Gal784_md Screen-shot-2013-05-27-at-10.23.15-PM Gal786_md picture.aspx Screen-shot-2013-05-27-at-10.22.09-PM christian_ward_Ocean2


Artist Profile: Paintings by Marefumi Komura




Tokyo-based artist Marefumi Komura‘s paintings reflect a sense of impermanence and as Japan works to confront and accept the devastation that the March 2011 earthquake dealt to the country,Marefumi has felt a need to refocus his paintings towards ever-present and universal themes of ‘fragility’ and ‘beauty’ that hide within our existence.


marefumi_komura_12_20130211_1056505809 marefumi_komura_1_20130211_1493795201 marefumi_komura_14_20130211_1422986545 marefumi_komura_4_20130211_1875998928 marefumi_komura_10_20130211_1984959200 marefumi_komura_5_20130211_1301506163