Yayoi Kusama, a contemporary Japanese artist, defies classification. Affiliated with surrealism, minimalism and pop-art, she interviews styles and media in her work to depict her unique perspective, a vehicle of sharing her personal experiences through art. Her twelfth exhibition at Victoria Miro gallery, opening on the 3rd of October 2018, introduces the audiences to some of her new works – including the mirrored infinity room – with a few familiar prevailing themes.
Born in Matsumoto City, Japan in 1929, she studied painting in Kyoto before migrating to New York in the Fifties. By mid-Sixties, she became a recognisable avant-garde figure. The critical acclaim was followed by popularity, formally announced by a handful of publications who highlighted the record-breaking interest in her exhibitions. In 2016, TIME included her on the list of the world’s 100 most influential people.
She continues to occupy this position through everything she does: painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, performance, film, printmaking, immersive installation and environmental art. She’s also tried her hand in literature, fashion (i.e. Louis Vuitton, 2012) and product design. The artist represented Japan at the 45th Venice Biennale in 1993. Currently, she lives and works in Tokyo, where the Yayoi Kusama Museum opened last year.
Some of her most popular works include the “infinity rooms” – the mirrored space filled with repeating dots and nets. Throughout her career, the artist created more than twenty of these ever-popular installations. The exhibition will be the first chance to see the titular Infinity Mirror Room: filled with polka-dot paper lanterns suspended from the ceiling and surrounded by black spherical lamps, the exhibit immerses the audience in endless space, so prolific in Kusama’s work. Many of these patterns are a way to escape her own trauma that she lived with since her early childhood. From 1977, she lived voluntarily in a psychiatric institution, and the repetitiveness of installations are an attempt to translate her experience of hallucinations that left her “dazzled and dumbfounded” as well as the theme of facing infinity translated to something tangible.
But the exhibition will also feature her new paintings and sculptures. Those include the additions to an ongoing series My Eternal Soul, filled with eyes, faces, and Kusama’s signature dots as a depiction of worlds – from the microscopic elements to infinity. They’ll be exhibited in Gallery II on Wharf Road.
Her painted bronze pumpkin and flower sculptures return to the themes that she used throughout her career. The dot pattern, motifs of growth and fertility, vibrant shades of red, yellow and green are all combined to create sophisticated geometrical patterns and distinctive moods.
Pumpkins take the artist back to her childhood memories – her family cultivated the kabocha squash in the fields surrounded her family home. In her memoir Infinity Net, she explained their significance:
“It seems that pumpkins do not inspire much respect. But I was enchanted by their charming and winsome form. What appealed to me most was the pumpkin’s generous unpretentiousness. That and its solid spiritual balance,” she wrote. “I would confront the spirit of the pumpkin, forgetting everything else and concentrating my mind entirely upon the form before me. Just as Bodhidharma spent ten years facing a stone wall, I spent as much as a month facing a single pumpkin. I regretted even having to take time to sleep.”
The painted bronze flowers in her work draw a line between nature and artifice for the artist. These fantastical forms of vividly coloured sculptures will be displayed in the gardens to encourage the visitors to move around them and view them from multiple angles.
The exhibition overlaps with the UK premiere of Heather Lenz’s Kusama – Infinity documentary. You’ll also be able to see one of her works at Southbank Centre’s Space Shifters exhibition.
Because of the huge popularity of her previous exhibitions, the gallery will use the system of free timed tickets. You must book it beforehand – the ticket pool opens up at 9am on Monday, the 24th of September 2018. They’re guaranteed to go quickly, so make sure to book early!
Yayoi Kusama: The Moving Moment When I Went to The Universe. 3 October–21 December 2018. Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW. Tickets available on Victoria Miro’s website.