Tate Modern is gearing up to throw open its door to a major new retrospective for Yayoi Kusama – Japan’s most famous living artist who was dabbling in polka-dots long before Damien Hirst was even born
With a career spanning over six decades, this exhibition will pick out her greatest hits, charting ‘a history of successive developments and daring advances’, from Kusama’s early explorations of painting in provincial Japan, to exciting new and unseen works, in the hope of demonstrating ‘why Kusama remains one of the most engaging practitioners today’.
The exhibition has been conceived as a series of intensely immersive environments, with the show unfolding through a sequence of rooms, each devoted to the emergence of a new artistic stance. It will include major sculptural installations such as The Clouds 1984, comprising one hundred unique black and white sprayed sewed stuffed cushions, and Heaven and Earth 1991, which features snake-like forms emerging from forty boxes. The exhibition will conclude with a series of works from the last decade including I’m Here, but Nothing 2000 –, in which a darkened domestic space is covered with fluorescent polka dots. Among other highlights will be a new installation conceived especially for the show – Infinity Mirrored Room, Filled with the Brilliance of Life 2011 – , and Kusama’s largest mirrored room to date.
Born in Matsumoto, Japan in 1929, Kusama’s early career saw here train in traditional Japanese painting while also exploring the European and American avant-garde. In the late 1950s, Kusama moved to the United States and established herself at the epicentre of the New York art scene. There, her radical approach to sculpture and installation are believed by many to have been highly influential on artists such as Andy Warhol and Claus Oldenburg. The exhibition will include Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show 1963, her first room installation, and a significant selection of her classic ‘Sex Obsession’ and ‘Food Obsession’ Accumulation Sculptures dating from 1962-68.
During in the 1960s, Kusama moved on to installations, films, performances and ‘happenings’, as well as devoting more and more of her time to political actions, counter-cultural events, fashion design and publishing. The exhibition will include Kusama’s iconic film Kusama’s Self-Obliteration 1968, capturing this period of performative experimentation, and an extensive selection of archive material that reveal how Kusama’s artistic activity extended beyond the bounds of the gallery. In 1973 Kusama returned to Japan for good, and began to create vibrant collages while also forging a parallel career as a poet and novelist.
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