I have been aware of Yayoi (pronounced Ya-Yoy) Kusama’s work ever since doing research for one of my books, titled “PANTONE: the 20th Century in Color.” Her ebulliently colored work burst on the art scene in the U.S in the late 50’s and 60’s and her work has since been featured at many museums internationally including the Tate, MOMA, the Hirshhorn at the Smithsonian, the Art Institute of Chicago as well as in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, South Korea and Japan.
I was delighted to see that her work was coming to the Seattle Art Museum this summer. I attended the show with two of my associates, Melissa Bolt and Amy Anderson, and we were all fascinated by what we saw. It is not easy to describe the exhibition as it is so unique and beyond colorful!
There are six rooms that are part of the exhibition called Infinity Mirrors. There are several installations that reflect light and color in a dazzling kaleidoscopic array, while another space shows her stuffed fabric tubers. One of Yayoi’s most iconic shapes is the polka dot and there are two rooms featuring the dots.
Visitors are provided with colorful dot stickers to affix to any of the surfaces in the Obliteration Room—certainly an interactive and playful installation.
In addition to polka dots, Yayoi is fixated on pumpkins. The SAM gallery guide explains the attraction as a “frequent motif in her work, recalling fairytales and fantasies.” In her autobiography titled “Infinity Net” she explains why they were an important theme in her art., describing the first time she ever saw a pumpkin when on a trip with her grandfather to seed harvesting grounds.
“Here and there along a path between fields of zinnias, periwinkle and nasturtiums I caught glimpses of the yellow flowers and the fruit of pumpkin vines.” She further explains that when she stopped for a closer look she saw a pumpkin the size of a man’s head. She says: “I parted the row of zinnias and reached in to pluck the pumpkin from its vine. It immediately began speaking to me in a most animated manner. It was still moist with dew, indescribably appealing and tender to the touch.”
I learned through her book that believing the pumpkins spoke to her was not an unusual occurrence. If you want to learn more about this very complex, controversial and talented artist, read her autobiography. Better yet, try to immerse yourself in one of her traveling exhibitions—it’s worth the wait!
At the end of the exhibit, we enjoyed a video interview with the artist in which she seeks to explain her purpose and her art.
The exhibit runs through Sept. 10. Tickets are sold out online but a limited number of timed tickets will be available on site at the museum for same-day entry on a first-come, first-served basis.