Yayoi Kusama, the legendary Japanese artist born in 1929, began her career 65 years ago. Nevertheless, the world discovered her just a couple of years back. Now it’s trying to make up for lost time, organizing exhibitions such as Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (Feb 23–May 14, 2017), or Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins at Dallas Museum of Art (October 1, 2017 to February 25, 2018, GO SEE IT!). Whereas in Tokyo, just last week, Kusama was opening an entire museum dedicated to her polka dotted oeuvre. Yet, what do pumpkins have to do with all this?
Pumpkins accompanied Kusama from her early childhood, as she grew up surrounded by a seed nursery owned by her family. With their whimsical shape and colour, they have represented to her a source of radiant energy and have been a lifelong inspiration and a beloved motif for her works. We may dare say, that Kusama found a reflection of herself in their grotesque boldness, and simultaneous humility and simplicity, and therefore her pumpkins can serve as a sort of a self-portrait of the artist.
Kusama launched her first infinity mirror room in 1965 and has now created more than 20 such mirrored spaces, which are designed to fully involve the spectator. The rooms are small and all covered in mirrors (on the walls, ceiling and floor), which enhances the feeling of infinity. In the case of rooms filled with pumpkins, it is a pumpkin infinity, as the artist fits in the room 62 acrylic yellow pumpkins covered in black polka dots.
She first began to cover surfaces with painted polka dots aged just 10. As she later explained, she had been prompted by a series of vivid hallucinations that transformed the world around her into ‘dense fields of dots.’ In the late 1940s, she spent two years in Kyoto, painting pumpkins because, as she has written, “pumpkins bring about poetic peace in my mind. Pumpkins talk to me.”
She has worked in a variety of media, drawing from styles ranging from Surrealism to Pop Art. Her psychedelic art is difficult to categorize, which wins her unlimited freedom and many collaborations outside of fine arts, like the one with Louis Vuitton in 2012.