Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is largely known for her obsessive patterned artworks, and her art encompasses an astonishing variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. This season Tate Modern is hosting the largest exhibition of her work ever seen in the UK, and Scout London is particularly excited by this highlight of the London cultural calendar.
The show explores work from Kusama’s early surrealist/expressionist paintings she made in the early 1950s in Japan, up to her latest work. In the 1960s Kusama was based in New York and was one of the few women in the Avant Garde circles. She came into contact with figures such as Donald Judd, Andy Warhol, Joseph Cornell and Claes Oldenburg, influencing many along the way.
Similar to Warhol, Kusama was notably shy, yet was a great self publicist, ensuring she was photographed with the right people at the right parties. She orchestrated socio-political events, including naked happenings and orgies in protest against events such as the war in Vietnam. She also used her difference as an Eastern female artist in a predominately male artistic circle. To communicate with the public, her ‘Walking Piece’ of 1966 consisted of her dressed in highly decorative kimono walking through the streets of New York.
After achieving notoriety in America, she returned to Japan, and for the past 38 years has chosen to live in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital, building herself a studio opposite where she still works today.
Much of Kusama’s work has been marked with obsessiveness and a desire to escape from psychological trauma. In an attempt to share her experiences, she creates installations that immerse the viewer in her obsessively charged spaces of endless dots, mirrors and repetitive sculptures. The exhibition pays attention to the full range of her work, from her phallic soft sculptures known as ‘Accumulations’ and her ‘Sex, Obsession Series’, to her installations and works on paper featuring abstract imagery. One of the highlights in the show is the ‘Obliteration Room’ of 2011, where Kusama proves it is possible to get lost in spots.
The exhibition will certainly not be to everyone’s taste, but it succeeds in exploring the work of an artist who is truly unique. Throughout her career Kusama has continued to be bold and experimental. The show is a fantastic opportunity for those new to her work to see what she has achieved and will also remind her fans why she is so groundbreaking.
Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern
Bankside Power Station
London SE1 9TG
9 February – 5 June 2012