14
Mar
09

Exhibition: ‘Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Rooms’ at Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Sydney

Exhibition dates: 24th February – 8th June 2009

Curators: Jaap Guldemond (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen), Franck Gautherot & Seungduk Kim (Le Consortium, Dijon)

MCA Curatorial Liaison: Judith Blackall

 

 

 

 

“Discover the work of internationally acclaimed Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama with this major exhibition that spans decades of her artistic practice.

Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years demonstrates the enduring force of Yayoi Kusama. Renowned early installations such as Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field (1965) along with recent immersive environments including Fireflies on the Water (2000) and Clouds (2008) provide insight into the creative energy of this extraordinary artist and her lifelong preoccupation with the perceptual, visual and physical worlds.

Working across different media and forms that include painting, collage, sculpture, installation and film, as well as performance and its documentation, Kusama creates works that reveal a fixation with repetition, pattern and accumulation. Describing herself as an “obsessive artist”, her work is intensely sensual, infused with autobiographical, psychological and sexual content.”

Text from the MCA website [Online] Cited 12/03/2009 (no longer available online)

.
Many thanks to Ed Jansen for the use of his installation photographs of this exhibition at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam in 2008. See the whole set of his photographs on Flickr. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field
1965

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965

Yayoi Kusama. 'Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field' 1965

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field
1965
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2008
Photo: Ed Jansen

 

 

Rewind 1960

Visual hallucinations of polka dots since childhood have inspired the most significant works of this avant-gardist, who says creating art “saved” her during her lifelong battle with mental illness.

Interview by Natalie Reilly

This photograph [see above, top, for the image of her in 1965] shows a creative work that I made in New York in 1960. I was 31 years old at the time and my inspiration was the inundation and proliferation of polka dots. The work represents the evolution of my original formative process. Of all the pieces I have made, I like this one the best. It was my intention to create an interminable image by using mirrors and multiplying red polka dots.

I was born in Nagano Prefecture , a mountainous region in Japan. The youngest of four children, I have one sister and two brothers.

Since childhood, I have loved to paint pictures and create art forms. [Kusama has suffered from obsessive thinking and visual hallucinations since early childhood. the hallucinations – often of polka dots, or “nets” as she calls them – have become the inspiration for much of her work.] I did many artworks in great numbers in my younger days.

I went to Seattle in 1957 where I had my first solo exhibition in the US. I moved  to New York in 1958. Japan in those days was too conservative for avant-garde art to be accepted. [By 1961, Kusama was an active participant in the avant-garde movement in New York. Her art, which often included performance and controversial themes such as nudity and protests against the Vietnam War, drew acclaim for art critics and other artists such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg.]

I was deeply moved by the efforts the artists in New York were making then to develop a new history for art. I owe what I am today to many people in the art circles in Japan, the US and Europe who enthusiastically supported my art and gave me a boost into the international art scene.

Artists Georgia O’Keefe and Joseph Cornell were among the many friends who helped me, including Donald Judd and [writer and activist] Lucy Lippard who appreciated the originality of my art.  [In 1962 at the height of her success in New York, Kusama’s mental health began to suffer as she grew more paranoid about other artists copying her work. Late that year, she covered up all the windows in her studio in an attempt to “shut out the world”, and by November she was hospitalised after suffering a nervous breakdown.]

I came back to Japan in 1973, because my health had deteriorated. I wanted to create art in a quiet atmosphere. I once said, “if it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago” an that’s still true. I do art in order to pursue my philosophy of life seeking truth in art.

Reilly, Natalie. “Rewind 1960,” in Boleyn, Alison (ed.,). Sunday Life: The Sunday Age Magazine. Melbourne: Fairfax Magazines. February 15th 2009, p. 30.

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Clouds' 1999 and 'Love Forever' 2005

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Clouds 1999 and Love Forever 2005
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 2008
Photo: Ed Jansen

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929) 'Clouds' 2008 (installation view at MCA)

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Clouds (installation view at MCA)
2008
Image courtesy the artist, Yayoi Kusama Studio, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo and © the artist

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929) 'Stars Infinity (A.B.C)' 2003 (installation view MCA)

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Stars Infinity (A.B.C) (installation view at MCA)
2003
Image courtesy and © the artist

 

 

This exhibition explored the extraordinary work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. It revealed the coherence of her practice over many years and highlighted the freshness and innovation she brings to themes investigated throughout her life. Describing herself as an ‘obsessive artist’, her work is intensely sensual, infused with autobiographical, psychological and sexual content.

Kusama was born in 1929, in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. She demonstrated a passion for art from an early age and went on to study Nihonga painting, a formal Japanese technique using ground pigment and animal glues. Excited by the promise of the post-war international art scene, Kusama moved to New York in 1958. Her first New York solo exhibition a year later was an outstanding success and she became renowned as an innovative and adventurous young artist with her large Infinity Net canvases; Accumulation sculptures of everyday objects completely covered with soft, sewn and stuffed protuberances; environments such as the Infinity Mirror Room-Phalli’s Field (1965) and performances and Happenings. In 1966 she exhibited Narcissus Garden, a field of mirrored spheres in the gardens of the Venice Biennale, creating a sensation with an extraordinarily beautiful and compelling new version of her accumulations.

Kusama was energetic, talented, strategic and courageous at a time of fervent development in the art world, in a city that was exciting and notoriously competitive. During the ‘60s and ‘70s she was an active presence in Europe as well – in 1962 she was the only female artist to take part in the widely acclaimed Nul (Zero) international group exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. She returned to Tokyo in 1973.

Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years juxtaposed seminal works from the 1960s with more recent installations, films, paintings, floor pieces and silkscreen prints on canvas, and included major new works. The exhibition reflected Kusama’s lifelong obsession with repetition, pattern and aggregation, and her perceptions – visual, physical and sensory. It demonstrated her originality, creativity and uncompromising vision across many different techniques. Her work has been highly influential to new generations of artists and designers and she remains one of the most respected artists working today.

Organised by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Presented in association with City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand.

Anonymous. “Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years,” on the MCA website Nd [Online] Cited 13/06/2022

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Fireflies on the Water' 2000

Yayoi Kusama. 'Fireflies on the Water' 2000

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Fireflies on the Water
2000

 

Yayoi Kusuama. 'The Moment of Regeneration' 2004

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
The Moment of Regeneration
2004

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929) 'The Moment of Regeneration' 2004 (installation view at MCA)

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
The Moment of Regeneration (installation view at MCA)
2004
Image courtesy the artist, Yayoi Kusama Studio, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo and © the artist

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929) 'Walking on the Sea of Death' 1981 (installation view at MCA)

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Walking on the Sea of Death (installation view at MCA)
1981
Image courtesy the artist, Yayoi Kusama Studio, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo and © the artist

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Narcissus Garden' 1966

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Narcissus Garden (at the Venice Biennale, Italy)
1966

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929) 'The Earth in Late Summer' 2004 (installation view MCA)

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
The Earth in Late Summer (installation view MCA)
2004
Image courtesy the artist, Yayoi Kusama Studio, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo and © the artist

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929) 'I'm here but nothing' 2000- (installation view MCA)

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
I’m here but nothing (installation view MCA)
2000-
Image courtesy the artist, Yayoi Kusama Studio, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo and © the artist

 

Yayoi Kusama. 'Invisible Life' 2000

 

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929)
Invisible Life
2000

 

 

Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA)
140 George Street
The Rocks, Sydney, Australia

Opening hours:
Daily 11am – 5pm

Yayoi Kusama website

Museum of Contemporary Art website

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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