Yayoi Kusama

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Gagosian Gallery is presenting two major exhibitions in New York and Beverly Hills to celebrate Yayoi Kusama‘s eightieth year. The artist, born in Japan in 1929, started painting with polka dots and nets as motifs around the age of ten. She moved to the United States in 1957, where she showed large scale paintings, soft sculptures, and environmental installations using electric lights and mirrors. From 1998-1999, a major retrospective opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and traveled to the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo.

The exhibition in New York, which opened on April 16th, features a large yellow pumpkin sculpture with black spots in a specifically designed space at the front of the gallery. This piece is based on a similar work Kusama showed at the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1993 – a mirrored room filled with pumpkin sculptures in which the artist resided in color-coordinated attire. The pumpkin, made of fiberglass and reinforced plastic, represents a type of self portrait or alter ego for the artist, whose compulsive covering of surfaces and infinite repetition of dots, patterns, and forms is characteristic of her entire body of work.

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For the back of the gallery, Kusama has constructed a hypnotic optical environment, Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity (2009), featuring the infinite interactions between lights, mirrors, and water. Viewers step into a dark chamber that is softly lit by several gleaming golden lights, closing the door behind them. Standing on a platform surrounded by water, the viewer is reflected in this “infinity room” by walls of mirrors. This experiential encounter with oneself represents the artist’s “preoccupation with mortality, as well as with enlightenment, solitude, nothingness, and the mysteries of the physical and metaphysical universe,” as stated in the press release.

The exhibition in California will open on May 30th and last until July 17th. The exhibition in New York will remain at the gallery’s location on West 24th Street until June 27th.

Yayoi Kusama currently lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.