Wednesday, 7 March 2012


The interesting Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Tate Modern (that opened last month) explores the whole careeer of this influential Japanese artist, with work on show that spans the full 60 (plus) years of her career. According to the accompanying booklet: 'Kusama is perhaps Japan's best known living artist' and that 'in the 1960's and 1970's she became a major figure in the New York avant-garde, associated with key developments in Pop [Art], Minimalism and Performance [Art].'

In terms of her 2-Dimensional work, my favourite rooms are the first two in the exhibition, which include (the aptly named) Lingering Dream (below) thats hung directly in front of the visitors as they first enter the show.

Lingering Dream (1949)

In the second room, there are a series of exquisite small paintings using watercolours, pen and inks. One of these is Rain in a City (1952) that reminds me a little of the work of Miro or Klee.

In Room 4 there are the series of Accumulation sculptures (below) that consist of (painted) everyday objects, such as chairs, with phallic shapes or other objects protuding from them. I like Silver Dress (1966) in the top right hand corner of my photo.

Accumulation sculptures (Room 4)

Continuing with the 'phallic shaped theme' is Aggregation, One Thousand Boats Show (below). This is a rowing boat painted white and covered with similiar shapes presented in a room with wallpaper that has the repeated motif of a photograph of this boat taken from above. A good effect is achieved by the black background of these surfaces coupled with the spotlights pointing at the boat. When first displayed in 1969 this installation may have influenced Andy Warhol's screen-printed wallpaper repeats that he started to create soon after?

Aggregation, One Thousand Boats Show (1963)

On entering Room 8 straight in front of the visitor is the eye-catching Phallic Dress (1968), this time in 'volcanic colours' with the dress being a dark pink and the shapes grey.

In the 1970's Collage room the work that stood out for me was I Who Committed Suicide (below) that uses a variety of media (and rubbings of leaves) to great effect.

I Who Committed Suicide (1977)

In Room 13 there are a series of brightly coloured recent paintings that neither have the delicate touch of her early works or the detail of the intricately painted Yellow Trees (below) thats shown a few rooms before. In between these two rooms of paintings is the I'm Here, but Nothing room. This is filled with everyday objects covered in dots that are lit up by only ultraviolet light and a television screen showing a video of Kusama herself singing.

Yellow Trees (1994)

The exhibition ends on a memorable note with the Infinity Mirror Room. Several spherical lights, that are suspended from the ceiling by wires, change colour on a continous timed loop that starts/ends with temporary darkness. The walls are mirrors, the floor has a path that vistors walk through which is flanked on both sides by shallow water. The reflections in the mirrors and water create the illusion that there are an endless amount of these lights that provide illumination for far more than this installation space.

Infinity Mirror Room - Filled with the Brilliance of Life (2011)

The visitors reaction to this room is often one of initial amazement and perhaps this has helped to keep this show busy through word-of-mouth, as opposed to Kusama being a household name outside of Japan or the contemporary art world.

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