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Living Legend of the International Avant-Garde, Yayoi Kusama, at Gagosian in Rome
Yayoi Kusama with Flowers that Bloom at Midnight, 2009 © Yayoi Kusama. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery. Photo: Yayoi Kusama Studio.

ROME.- Gagosian Gallery presents an exhibition of recent paintings and sculptures by Yayoi Kusama.

Kusama is a living legend of the international avant-garde who has emphatically eschewed the categorizations of modern art. Flamboyant yet profound, her oeuvre runs the gamut from unique masterpieces to mass-produced pop culture commodities, consistent in their constant and manifold appeal to the imagination and the senses. In a protean career spanning more than sixty years, she has made cosmic infinity and personal obsession the twin poles of her artistic inquiry. This exhibition of recent work weaves between the two oppositions, juxtaposing monadic sculptures with topological installations and abstract paintings with self-portraits.

Three sculptures spanning fifty years reveal Kusama’s constantly evolving approach to reflectivity as concept, process, and metaphor. Narcissus Garden is a sculptural installation of hundreds of mirrored balls, distributed in an aleatory manner across the gallery floor, reflecting everything around them. It earned Kusama notoriety when she first presented it at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966 as a rogue event on the lawns of the Italian Pavilion. Dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono, she offered the mirrored balls for sale for 1200 lire apiece, drawing attention to the commercial realities of art ignored in the context of the international festival. Many years after this incident, Kusama produced Narcissus Garden in ten versions of varying scale. Passing Winter (2005), a seemingly Minimalist cubic sculpture fashioned from highly polished industrial mirror glass, reveals trippy optical complexities as viewers peer into its depths via circular spyholes cut into all fours sides of its gleaming surface to find themselves reflected within, infinitely multiplied. Reach Up to the Universe, Dotted Pumpkin (2010) is another mirror, this time in the shape of Kusama’s favorite pumpkin motif, which she has described as a sort of alter-ego. A hollow form cast in aluminum, highly polished, and perforated with holes to reveal a bright vermilion interior, Reach Up… is installed in a matched monochrome environment dotted with convex mirrors of varying sizes, so that sculpture and environment endlessly reflect and multiply each other and the viewers moving between them.

Similarly, Kusama’s dynamic Dots Obsession painting series is an ongoing meditation on infinity and the void. Flatly painted monochrome fields are dotted with perfect rounds of varying size to suggest black holes of illusory deep space punched into the picture plane. In two vivid and large-scale Self-portraits, Kusama’s own image, stylized, flat and frontal like a Russian icon, is articulated in swathes of her signature repeat patterns, minutely worked in pulsating color.

Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto City, Japan in 1929. Her work is collected by leading museums throughout the world including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; LACMA, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate Modern, London; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Major exhibitions of her work include Kitakyushu Municipal Museum of Art, Fukuoka, Japan (1987); Center for International Contemporary Arts, New York (1989); Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama,1958-1969, LACMA, 1998 (traveling to Museum of Modern Art, New York, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo), 1998-99; Le Consortium, Dijon, 2000 (traveling to selected venues in Europe and Korea), 2001-2003; KUSAMATRIX, Mori Museum of Art, Tokyo, 2004 (traveling to Art Park Museum of Contemporary Art, Sapporo Art Park, Hokkaido); Eternity – Modernity, National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (touring Japan), 2004-2005; The Mirrored Years, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, 2008, (traveling to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney and the City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand through 2009), and I Want to Live Forever, PAC Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, 2009. A major retrospective will open at the Reina Sofia, Madrid on May 10, 2011, traveling to the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Tate Modern, London; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York through 2012.

Kusama lives and works in Tokyo, Japan.

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