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 recent retrospective at the Hirshhorn Museum, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, drew record-breaking crowds. Now, the exhibition is traveling to the Seattle Art Museum, bringing Kusama’s compelling art back to 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 opens at the Seattle Art Museum on June 30 and runs through September 10, 2017. The show 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. But Manchanda is most excited to have a local Kusama piece on display for this stop on the exhibition’s tour: “We will have a work that was not at the Hirshhorn museum that comes from a local collection. It’s called ‘Walking on the Sea of Death,’ and it’s one of her rowboats. It’s a dramatic piece, silver and covered in these different phallic extrusions, that really enhances the exhibition.” If you miss the show in Seattle, the exhibition’s next stop will be at the Broad in Los Angeles in October.