Idiosyncratic Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s paintings, pumpkin sculptures and illusive signature mirror rooms express volumes about an enigmatic artist whose imagery, instantly recognisable in its theatricality and vibrancy, remains one of the most important artists of our time. The subject of two new shows at London’s Victoria Miro and Victoria Miro Mayfair galleries, the artist’s most recent works are showcased, speak boldly for themselves as the product of over half a century of Kusama’s tireless experimentation and curiosity.
These shows, running from 25 May until 30 July, are the first opportunity to venture inside some of Kusama’s signature mirror rooms, since one was last exhibited in London as part of her major retrospective at Tate Modern in 2012. These Escher-like installations have been newly produced for the shows, revelling in the juxtaposition of light and isolation to induce the sensation of infinity. The first of these, Chandelier of Grief, employs a rotating chandelier lighting up a seemingly endless hall of mirrors.
Outside, Where the Lights in My Heart Go installed in Victoria Miro’s waterside garden utilises natural light filtered through small holes in a stainless steel mirrored box. In the darkened isolation within, an indecipherable constellation is formed, shifting perpetually as you move head and feet and venture seemingly deeper and deeper in the phosphorescent abyss.
All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins is the strongest of the three mirror rooms, and indeed the commanding work across the exhibition on the whole. Powerful in its hallucinogenic absurdity, you enter the room surrounded by, characteristically Kusama neon orange glowing pumpkins of varying sizes, which reflected in the surrounding mirrors give the impression of a glowing field filled to infinity — the exhibition’s ostensible central thesis. The mirrors replicate the viewer too, immersed in this space, repeated interminably in variegated orientations as if deep within a living Escher room redecorated lavishly with Kusama’s aesthetic.
A trio of polished bronze pumpkin sculptures flank this mirror room, emblematic, on low minimalistic plinths.
The top floor of the gallery houses a curated selection of Kusama’s latest Infinity Nets paintings, a series begun over half century ago. Born out of a fascination for the ocean, its currents and its ripples, each painting is composed unconsciously from the outside, inwards, forming spontaneously. The series broke from the bounds of its initial subject matter long ago, becoming a forms in their own right. Though this aesthetic motif has been one revisited with near constancy over the years, viewing the paintings from different positions and distances reveals depth and nuance within the abstraction, and their display together here serves to reiterate the uniqueness of each iteration.
A satellite exhibition at Victoria Miro Mayfair presents a number of painting from Kusama’s ongoing late series of works, started in 2009, My Eternal Soul. The new works once more expand her style, breaking from compilation of an obliterated image simply through repetitive pattern. Line work is featured more heavily, while closer inspection reveals the canvas littered with comical, surreal eyes and human faces in profile, cropped and inverted throughout. Several of the paintings are cellular, emblazoned in bold and contrasting blues and oranges and golds and purples, as if vibrating with life.
The Yayoi Kusama exhibition opens 25 May and will run until 30 July, with the mirror rooms, sculptures and infinity nets on display at the Victoria Miro gallery in Islington, and the selection of paintings from My Eternal Soul on display at Victoria Miro Mayfair.