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Jul 13, 2012
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New York celebrates Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama

By
AFP
Published
Jul 13, 2012

A retrospective of Japan's reclusive living legend Yayoi Kusama, 83, opened at New York City's Whitney Museum of American Art on Thursday, complete with her signature spots.

Running through September, the exhibit includes some 150 works, including Kusama's monumental multicolor plexiglass light installation "Fireflies on the Water."


'Fireflies on the Water' / Photo: Yayoi Kusama

The installation is set in a dark room, with mirrors on each wall and a pool in the center, and is designed to create "visual effects that may be disorienting to some viewers," according to the Whitney's website.

Audiences must work for the experience.

"Visitors must step up onto a six-inch (15-centimeter) high platform, pass through a 30-inch (76-centimeter) wide doorway, and travel over a 30-inch-wide platform with no edge protection," the site added.

Before arriving at its final destination in New York, Kusama's retrospective appeared at the Centre Pompidou art museum in Paris, followed by the Tate Modern in London.


Photo: Yayoi Kusama

Born in Matsumoto, Japan in 1929, Kusama came to the Big Apple in 1958, where she became a fixture in the Pop and Minimalism art movements of the 1960s as she created her own brand of art.

After a series of exhibitions and "happenings," including staged events with nude participants at New York landmarks, Kusama returned to Japan in 1973.

Kusama suffered from a series of psychiatric disorders and was admitted to a hospital for mental illness shortly after her return to Tokyo, where she has lived, for the most part, until now.

The Whitney exhibition features the first of Kusama's work to be shown in the United States since 1998.

Exhibition organizers say it "seeks to show the full breadth of the artist's output throughout her lengthy and varied career, contextualizing Kusama's American sojourn with representations of her early and late career in Japan."

The exhibition includes paintings from Kusama's Minimalist period in New York, as well as her famous soft sculptures, like "Accumulation" (1963), a chair painted in white, covered with fabric dressings that look like fungal growths.

Visitors can watch the film "Self-Obliteration" (1968), which captures her period of experimentation with performance art, extending beyond the traditional confines of the art gallery.

The exhibit was supported by French fashion designer Louis Vuitton, which has released a collection of dotted clothing, shoes, handbags and accessories inspired by Kusama's work.

The company has launched a website that recounts Kusama's life story in 12 languages and dialects and features images of her work at www.louisvuittonkusama.com.

The Whitney Museum features twentieth century and contemporary American art. It was founded in 1930 by US sculptor, art patron and philanthropist Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney (1875-1942).

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