Major presentation of new works by Yayoi Kusama opens at Victoria Miro

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Major presentation of new works by Yayoi Kusama opens at Victoria Miro
Yayoi Kusama, An Offering From My Heart to Michelle Obama, 2020. Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 100 cm. 39 3/8 x 39 3/8 in © YAYOI KUSAMA. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts and Victoria Miro.

LONDON.- Victoria Miro is presenting Yayoi Kusama’s thirteenth solo exhibition with the gallery. This major presentation of new works features a dynamic installation of paintings from Kusama’s iconic My Eternal Soul series, bronze pumpkins and painted soft sculptures.

Throughout her career, Yayoi Kusama has developed a unique and diverse body of work that, highly personal in nature, connects profoundly with global audiences. Continuing to address the twin themes of cosmic infinity and personal obsession, the works in this exhibition are testament to an artist at the height of her powers.

The My Eternal Soul paintings on view in this exhibition introduce new and recent examples drawn from the artist’s highly celebrated, ongoing series, which she commenced in 2009. These works, at once bold and intensely detailed, and conveying extraordinary vitality, are joyfully improvisatory, fluid and highly instinctual. They abound with imagery including eyes, faces in profile, and other more indeterminate forms, including the dots with which the artist is synonymous, to offer impressions of worlds both abstract and figurative, microscopic and macroscopic.

A series of bronze pumpkins take a dynamic new form, their surfaces impressed with patterns of circles that create a sophisticated geometry. The pumpkin, or kabocha, with its dotted skin has, in various forms, been a recurring motif in Kusama’s art since the late 1940s. The artist’s family cultivated plant seeds in Matsumoto, and she was familiar with the kabocha squash in the fields that surrounded her childhood home. At around the same time, the artist first experienced hallucinations in which her surroundings were overtaken by a proliferating pattern that engulfed her field of vision. Explored across scales, colours and media, the pumpkin occupies a special place in her iconography. Each pumpkin has a distinct character, as if caught in a particular stage of growth. Arrangements of dots on their plump bodies and curving stems, meanwhile, seem as unique as fingerprints. Enchanted by their ‘charming and winsome’ forms, the artist has said it is the pumpkin’s air of ‘general unpretentiousness’ and ‘solid spiritual balance’ that appeals to her.

Soft sculptures have been a key tenet of Kusama’s oeuvre since the early 1960s, pre empting many famous examples from that decade and inspiring many others subsequently. Writing about the genesis of this aspect of her practice Kusama explains, ‘From around 1961 something new appeared in the world of my art. It came to be known as “soft sculpture”. The nets I was painting had continued to proliferate until they had spread beyond the canvas to cover the tables, the floor, the chairs, and the walls. The result of the unlimited development of this obsessional art was that I was able to shed my painter’s skin and metamorphose into an environmental sculptor. I went on finding new ways to turn my obsessions into concrete forms.’

The sculptures on view are painted in the style that has come to characterise Kusama’s My Eternal Soul paintings and incorporate their palette and aesthetic vocabulary of widely opened eyes, polka-dots, nets and organic shapes. While the freestanding sculptures appear as though Kusama’s images have been released from the canvases they are surrounded by and have organised themselves into three-dimensional forms, a further work, its organic forms contained within yet appearing almost to overflow from a number of wall-mounted boxes, accentuates a tension between containment and release.

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