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Polka-dot queen Japanese artist plans London exhibition

Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese artist who has made a name as the creator of vast and complex works in bold colors and polka dots, has two exhibitions of her most recent works set to open in London.

art and culture Updated: Feb 06, 2012 16:15 IST
Yayoi Kusama,Japanese artist,london

Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese artist who has made a name as the creator of vast and complex works in bold colors and polka dots, has two exhibitions of her most recent works set to open in London.

The Tate Modern will host the largest exhibition of the 82-year-old artist's work ever displayed in Britain, over a period of nearly four months from early February. That exhibition was previously displayed in Paris and Madrid and will next move to New York.

The New Paintings exhibition, at the Victoria Miro gallery, will feature works created in the last three years and will open on February 10.

Described by the Victoria Miro gallery as Japan's "most revered contemporary artist," Kusama has developed a reputation for the eye-catching with works ranging from an entire room in red with white polka dots to outsized flowers atop huge stems, the petals covered with polka dots, rain in a mirrored room and silver spheres floating on a lake.

Kusama can trace her earliest artistic endeavors back to the age of 10, when she first began to experiment with meshes and polka dots -- which have remained a lifelong motif that she calls her "infinity nets" -- to create fantastic, swirling paintings in oil, pastels and watercolors.

In 1957, after a lengthy exchange of letters with Georgia O'Keefe, Kusama left Japan for New York and quickly threw herself into the city's art scene. She soon built a reputation as a key mover in the avant-garde movement and displayed large paintings, soft sculptures and environmental sculptures that utilized mirrors and lights.

She was also an enthusiastic organizer of and participant in "happenings" such as body-painting festivals and fashion shows -- the more outrageous the better -- that often involved nudity in very public places, such as in Central Park or on the Brooklyn Bridge, and were meant to be protests against the war in Vietnam. Earlier this month a collaboration between Kusama and the brand Louis Vuitton was announced, with the accessories slated to hit stores early in July.

Fantastically productive, Kusama's friends and collaborants included Donald Judd and Joseph Cornell, while her works were exhibited alongside such luminaries of the era's art world as Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol. Yoko Ono cites her as an influence.

In 1973, in ill health, she returned to Japan and four years later voluntarily admitted herself to a mental hospital in Tokyo, where she lives to this day. She works at both the hospital and her nearby studio and has been frequently quoted as saying, "If it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago."

Kusama represented Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and has had solo exhibitions at some of the most coveted art venues in the world, from the Museum of Modern Art in London to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo and New York's Museum of Modern Art.

The exhibition at the Victoria Miro will include a work titled My Forsaken Love, in which biomorphs traverse a black-fringed, molten-pink background to the strata-like composition of Standing on the Riverbank of my Hometown I Shed Tears.

Kusama has said that she is not sure whether she will be able to attend the exhibitions in person, due to her health.

Yayoi Kusama's exhibition will be at the Tate Modern from February 9 to June 5.

A selection of her new paintings will be at Victoria Miro in London from February 10 to April 5.

First Published: Feb 06, 2012 15:51 IST