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Yayoi Kusama | Pumpkins at the Victoria Miro Gallery
November 21, 2014
Yayoi Kusama is one of Japan’s most important living artists. Her distinctive style, born of an obsession with dots that she has nurtured since childhood, flowered in the late 50s early 60s when she moved to America and became an integral part of the New York avant-garde, rubbing shoulders with artists such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg. Creating paintings, sculptures and large environments coated in a mesmerising sea of spots, she has stated that; ‘Polka dots are a way to infinity.’
Kusama has received unwavering international acclaim and been the subject of a number of solo shows at iconic galleries around the globe, most notably her Tate Retrospective in 2012, the same year she famously collaborated with fashion house Louis Vuitton. Kusama also broke the record in 2008 for the highest amount paid for an artwork by a living female artist at the time with Christies of New York selling one of her pieces for over five million dollars.
The Victoria Miro gallery in London currently bares the ‘fruit’ of Kusama’s last two years work; The large majestic bronze sculptures of three spotted pumpkins, a form Kusama has made her icon. Pushing personal boundaries still at the age of eighty-five this is the first time Kusama has worked with bronze on such a large scale.
Against the serene backdrop of the gallery’s water garden the bronzes are complemented by the raw materials of weathered wooden decking, aged brick work and softly rustling foliage. The few hundred mirrored silver balls from a 2012 recreation of Kusama’s Narcissus Garden (1966) floating on the water nearby echo their spots.
The bronze lends itself well to the form of the pumpkins, mimicking the warmth in colour of their real life counterparts with the black spots adding the familiar graphic pop art feel and yet also a sombre edge to these works. There is something strikingly different in tone about these three pieces, a seriousness beyond that of Kusama’s bright primary coloured works. Perhaps a reflection on the artist’s growing fear of death, or perhaps a reflection on growing older, wiser, on growing in status and growing in seriousness:-rather than slowing down, Kusama at eighty-five has recruited more assistants to her studio and rises sometimes at 3am to work late into the night. Either way the choice of this historically revered material highlights well her place amongst the masters of art.
Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkins continues at the Victoria Miro Wharf Road Gallery until the 19th of December. For more information go to victoria-miro.com/exhibitions/464
Maxine Kirsty Sapsford, Arts Editor