Japanese Artist Yayoi Kusama: The Most Colorful Show In New York

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May 9th-June 13th  2015

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Downtown gallery David Zwirner has been on fire in recent months, choosing and spotlighting some of the most thrilling contemporary artists in our day and age. His latest show, featuring Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, is of no exception. Kusama, who was voted ‘Most Popular Artist of 2014’ derived from museum attendance, has been making waves for quite some time.

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The 86-year old Tokyo based artist is notoriously shy, having famously resided in a mental hospital since 1973. Kusama struggled with hallucinatory visions from a young age, frequently seeing spots that flooded her vision and took over her mind. Due to these formative experiences growing up, Kusama certainly has an affinity for polka dots and frequently includes this iconic imagery in a vast majority of her works. In Zwirner’s show, entitled Give Me Love, we are privy to access the deepest corners of Kusama’s mind through a host of interactive, dynamic and playful works.

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The first installation, entitled The Obliteration Room, is a large-scale model of an American suburban home. Upon entering the space, we see all the trappings of comfortable, middle-class life, complete with an American flag and plastic lawn furniture out front. However, everything is painted a bright, stark, almost blinding shade of white. We are each given a sheet of colored, polka dot stickers, and are told to put them wherever we please, from the black picture frames, to the shoes by the front door, to the fridge. We, as visitors, are given the power to transform the space and ultimately, transform the interior until it is eradicated to a frenzying blur of colors. As the stickers continue to pile up and layer the idle domesticity inside, the sense of volume and depth disappears as indiscernible pieces of furniture, floors and walls all blend together. Kusama has transformed the effigy of a middle class American home into a surreal and dizzying mad hatter experience. All of a sudden, we are in Kusama’s head, experiencing her visions of hallucinatory dots taking over real life.

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The second part of the exhibition showcases Kusama’s new pumpkin sculptures. The works are enormous, up to 70 inches high, and are mirrored. Of course, the pumpkins feature either painted polka dots, or perforated ones cut into the steel structure. The juxtaposition between the lush, organic shape of the pumpkins and their shiny steel material is an interesting dichotomy, resulting in animated bulbous forms one would find in a video game or on the page of a comic book. Their exaggerated size seems to be measured after human proportions, and due to their reflective surfaces, we are able to see ourselves in the work. Again, Kusama has integrated the spectator into her art—we are part of the installation.

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It is no surprise that Kusama has received such accolades from the art world and art enthusiasts alike—she is clearly traversing the boundaries between art and object, artist and spectator, observation and interaction. Her work invites a certain playful, whimsical participation that we can’t help but gravitate to, and find ourselves desperately wanting more.

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