Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
24 Feb 2009 to 08 Jun 2009
Organised by Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands
Presented in association with City Gallery, Wellington, New Zealand
This exhibition explored the extraordinary work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. It revealed the coherence of her practice over many years and highlighted the freshness and innovation she brings to themes investigated throughout her life. Describing herself as an ‘obsessive artist’, her work is intensely sensual, infused with autobiographical, psychological and sexual content.
Kusama was born in 1929, in Matsumoto City, Nagano Prefecture, Japan. She demonstrated a passion for art from an early age and went on to study Nihonga painting, a formal Japanese technique using ground pigment and animal glues. Excited by the promise of the post-war international art scene, Kusama moved to New York in 1958. Her first New York solo exhibition a year later was an outstanding success and she became renowned as an innovative and adventurous young artist with her large Infinity Net canvases; Accumulation sculptures of everyday objects completely covered with soft, sewn and stuffed protuberances; environments such as the Infinity Mirror Room-Phalli’s Field (1965) and performances and Happenings. In 1966 she exhibited Narcissus Garden, a field of mirrored spheres in the gardens of the Venice Biennale, creating a sensation with an extraordinarily beautiful and compelling new version of her accumulations.
Kusama was energetic, talented, strategic and courageous at a time of fervent development in the art world, in a city that was exciting and notoriously competitive. During the ‘60s and ‘70s she was an active presence in Europe as well—in 1962 she was the only female artist to take part in the widely acclaimed Nul (Zero) international group exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. She returned to Tokyo in 1973.
Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years juxtaposed seminal works from the 1960s with more recent installations, films, paintings, floor pieces and silkscreen prints on canvas, and included major new works. The exhibition reflected Kusama’s lifelong obsession with repetition, pattern and aggregation, and her perceptions – visual, physical and sensory. It demonstrated her originality, creativity and uncompromising vision across many different techniques. Her work has been highly influential to new generations of artists and designers and she remains one of the most respected artists working today.