Pop art pioneer and queen of the avant-garde, Yayoi Kusama has reveled in a prolific—if often controversial—67-year career. But while the Priestess of Polka Dots has enjoyed considerable critical acclaim from her home in a Japanese sanitorium, it has only been in the past decade that her photogenic pumpkins and Instagrammable infinity rooms have catapulted out of art’s inner circles and into the public fascination. A 2017 retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, drew record-breaking crowds. From there, exhibition has continued on a five-city tour, but its second stop, at the Seattle Art Museum, brought Kusama’s compelling art full circle in the city that hosted her first U.S. solo exhibition and opened the door to her illustrious and colorful career.
Manchanda notes, “For Kusama, a driving force behind her ideas is this concept that what she calls self-obliteration, the idea that we’re all just a tiny speck in the cosmos. It’s present in her paintings and in those environments you enter to find your image swallowed up by all the different images that are reflected around you. It’s a deeply human message.”
Soon, however, her frenzied periods of making art and the struggle to succeed as a New York artist took their toll. In 1975, Kusama returned to Japan after a nervous breakdown, and two years later checked herself into the Seiwa Hospital, a hospital for the mentally ill in Tokyo, where she still lives today.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors not only reaches back to the artist’s early days to help visitors understand how her art evolved, but it also includes a number of Kusama’s new paintings—from a series of 100 works recently featured at Tokyo’s National Art Center. Next, the exhibition moves on to the Art Gallery of Toronto, opening March 3.
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