Yayoi Kusamas (b.1929) pioneering work spans over six decades and this exhibition highlights the artists moments of most intense innovation. Kusama is one of Japans best-known living artists and since the 1940s she has developed an extensive body of work. From her earliest explorations of painting in provincial Japan to new unseen works, the exhibition reveals a history of successive developments and daring advances, demonstrating why Kusama remains one of the most engaging practitioners today.
Conceived as a series of immersive environments, the exhibition unfolds in a sequence of rooms, each devoted to the emergence of a new artistic stance. Much of Kusamas art has an almost hallucinatory intensity that reflects her unique vision of the world, whether through a teeming accumulation of detail or the dense patterns of nets and polka dots that have become her signature. She is renowned for her environments, large-scale installations of dazzling power that immerse the viewer. A highlight of the exhibition is a new installation conceived especially for the show, Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled with the Brilliance of Life 2011, Kusamas largest mirrored room to date.
Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto, Japan in 1929. In her early career she immersed herself in the study of art, integrating a wide range of Eastern and Western influences, training in traditional Japanese painting while also exploring the European and American avant-garde. In the late 1950s, Kusama moved to the United States and during her time there worked tirelessly to position herself at the epicentre of the New York art scene. The exhibition includes a group of Kusamas first Infinity Net paintings from her early years in New York, canvases covered in endlessly-repeated, scalloped brushstrokes of a single colour. Kusama forged her own direction in sculpture and installation, adopting techniques of montage and soft sculpture which historians have seen as influencing artists such as Andy Warhol and Claus Oldenburg. The exhibition includes 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.
As the 1960s progressed, Kusama moved from painting, sculpture and collage to installations, films, performances and happenings as well as political actions, counter-cultural events, fashion design and publishing. The exhibition includes Kusamas iconic film Kusamas Self-Obliteration 1968, capturing this period of performative experimentation, and an extensive selection of archive material that reveal how Kusamas artistic activity extended beyond the bounds of the gallery.
In 1973 Kusama returned to Japan where she continues to live and work today. The exhibition includes vibrant and evocative collages she created on her return, during a period in which she was also forging a parallel career as a poet and novelist. Major sculptural installations are featured including 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 concludes with a series of works from the last decade including Im Here, but Nothing 2000 -, in which a darkened domestic space is covered with fluorescent polka dots.
Yayoi Kusama is curated by Frances Morris, Head of Collection, International Art, Tate
with Rachel Taylor, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The exhibition has been organised by Tate Modern in association with the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; the Centre Pompidou, Paris and The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.