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Yayoi Kusama. Retrospective at Centre Pompidou, Paris

November 7, 2011

The Centre Pompidou currently presents the first French retrospective dedicated to the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The exhibition shows some 150 works dating from 1949 to 2011. The presentation of Kusama’s work is organized chronologically and divided into two major periods: Her years in New York (1958-1973) and in Japan (1973-2011).

This video takes you on a walk through the exhibition with Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets and Accumulations series, happenings and performances, Soft Sculptures, large paintings, environments and recent paintings.

The exhibition runs until January 9, 2012 and will then travel to the Reina Sofia Museum in Madrid, the Tate Modern in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Yayoi Kusama. Retrospective at Centre Pompidou, Paris. October 10, 2011. Video by Christophe Ecoffet.

> Right-click (Mac: ctrl-click) this link to download Quicktime video file.

From the press release:

Kusama’s whole work is organised in successive series NEW YORK : 1958 -1973

INFINITY NETS SERIES: Having arrived in New York in 1958, the artist produced her first monochrome white, large-format Infinity Nets (sometimes reaching 11 m in length), an expression of her obsession with the infinite. In 1960 and 1961, she continued along on the same lines, but introducing colour (Infinity Nets Yellow, 1960, National Gallery of Art, Washington)..

ACCUMULATIONS SERIES: Kusama embarked on sculpture in 1961. Her textile sculptures are based on everyday objects picked up in the streets of New York (a sofa for the first, Accumulation No. 1, then a table, chair etc.), on which she clustered phallic forms in stuffed fabric. Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show (1963, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam) is her first installation, returning to the principle of accumulation but deploying it to create an environment, images of a boat so treated being regularly repeated on the walls of the black box in which it is installed. Also on display will be another key work of this period, My Flower Bed (1962), from the Museum’s own collection.

HAPPENINGS AND PERFORMANCES: In 1966, Kusama began to stage her first happenings, inside her environments Peep Show and Phalli’s Field. Then came events in the New York streets, such as Walking Piece, 14th Street and the Anatomic Explosion series. The politically and sexually transgressive New York scene of the years of Peace and Love finds forceful expression in this element of her work.

JAPAN : 1973 – 2011

In 1973, Kusama returned definitively to Japan in a very fragile psychological state, the beginning of a period whose darkness is illustrated by a number of collages (War, 1977; I Who Committed Suicide, 1977, Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo). In 1977, she decided to live in a psychiatric hospital, where she has worked simultaneously in a number of different domains.

SOFT SCULPTURES: These organic forms in stuffed fabric are set horizontally on the floor, in random fashion, to occupy large spaces (Clouds, 1982, courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo; The Moment of Regeneration, 2004, courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London).

LARGE PAINTINGS: In the 1980s and ‘90s, Kusama produced very large-scale polyptychs that pursue the idea of repetition, paintings that suggest an endless expansion of the visual field (Yellow Trees, 1994, Forever Museum of Contemporary Art, Akita; Flame, 1992, private collection).

ENVIRONMENTS: The artist has returned to the idea of her early New York experiments with total sculptures occupying entire spaces (floor, walls and ceiling), now playing with infinite repetitions of the dot though the use of mirrors and endless reflections (Dots Obsession, 1998, Les Abattoirs, Toulouse; Infinity Mirror Room, 2011, collection of the artist).

RECENT PAINTINGS: The exhibition at the Centre will also afford an unprecedented opportunity to see 31 recent paintings. Kusama visits her studio on a daily basis to paint on canvases set flat – a return to the tradition of Oriental painting and calligraphy. Sometimes producing at a rate of a painting a day, the artist understands this practice, like all her work, as an exorcism that allows her to bring out the inner chaos of her mind (Eyes of Mine, 2010; Spring Has Come, 2010, collection of the artist).

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