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Polka Dots, Psychedelic Patterns and Fireflies: Yayoi Kusama Comes to the Whitney

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

This work, 'Walking Piece,' includes photographs of Kusama walking the streets of New York City in a pink kimono. This work, 'Walking Piece,' includes photographs of Kusama walking the streets of New York City in a pink kimono. (Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC)

Sixty years of artwork by the influential Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama will go on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art on Thursday.

Kusama is probably best known for her use of bright polka dots and psychedelic patterns in paintings, collages and installations. In the 1960s, she made a splash painting nude volunteers during public art happenings in New York City.

Kusama at one of her signature art happenings. Here, an image from Yoyoi Kusama's tabloid publication, 'Kusama's Orgy,' c. 1969. Courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery

Photo credit: Kusama at one of her signature art happenings. Here, an image from Yoyoi Kusama's tabloid publication, 'Kusama's Orgy,' c. 1969. Courtesy of Susan Inglett Gallery.

The 83-year-old influenced Andy Warhol, among other Pop Art contemporaries.

“This distinction of what has created the culture of art in the United States, she is absolutely an individual who has contributed to that so that is the reason why her work is being shown and is in the collection of the Whitney Museum,” said Whitney Chief Curator Donna de Salvo.

Kusama got a preview of her retrospective at the Whitney on Monday dressed -- as she often is -- in polka dots.

Yayoi Kusama” runs at the Whitney Museum from Thursday through until September 30. Another permanent Kusama in the Whitney’s collection, “Fireflies on the Water,” will also be shown in the museum’s lobby gallery.

See a slideshow of works in the show:

In this installation, called 'Whitney Accumulation No. 1, 1963,' Kusama sewed stuffed fabric to shoes, chairs and furniture.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
In this installation, called 'Whitney Accumulation No. 1, 1963,' Kusama sewed stuffed fabric to shoes, chairs and furniture.
Kusama continues to work at the age of 83. She painted these 6 foot-by-6 foot canvases that make up 'After the Battle, I Want to Die at the End of the Universe' in her studio in Japan.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama continues to work at the age of 83. She painted these 6 foot-by-6 foot canvases that make up 'After the Battle, I Want to Die at the End of the Universe' in her studio in Japan.
Kusama’s work ranges from canvas paintings to watercolor collages. This 1975 work is called 'Eyes of the Night.'
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama’s work ranges from canvas paintings to watercolor collages. This 1975 work is called 'Eyes of the Night.'
Her installation 'Fireflies on the Water' includes a room with mirrors for walls, a pool of shallow water for a floor and lights hanging from the ceiling.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Her installation 'Fireflies on the Water' includes a room with mirrors for walls, a pool of shallow water for a floor and lights hanging from the ceiling.
Kusama’s sculptures often feature long, white protrusions. This one from 1991 is called 'Heaven and Earth.'
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama’s sculptures often feature long, white protrusions. This one from 1991 is called 'Heaven and Earth.'
Kusama’s Infinity net paintings reveal her fascination with repetitive patterns and the idea of infinity. This one was made in 1959 and is called 'Infinity Net No. F.'
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama’s Infinity net paintings reveal her fascination with repetitive patterns and the idea of infinity. This one was made in 1959 and is called 'Infinity Net No. F.'
Kusama created these large colorful paintings in Japan in 2009 and 2010.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama created these large colorful paintings in Japan in 2009 and 2010.
Kusama’s retrospective at the Whitney is open to the public until September 30.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama’s retrospective at the Whitney is open to the public until September 30.
In the early 1960s, Kusama sculpted artworks from fabric, plaster and macaroni on common items like hats, shoes and clothing.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
In the early 1960s, Kusama sculpted artworks from fabric, plaster and macaroni on common items like hats, shoes and clothing.
Kusama’s love of colorful patterns, as in this 2009 work, 'Late-Night Chat is Filled with Dreams,' is evident even 60 years after she began creating art.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama’s love of colorful patterns, as in this 2009 work, 'Late-Night Chat is Filled with Dreams,' is evident even 60 years after she began creating art.
In 'Revived Soul,' Kusama creates a pattern by painting small polka dots.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
In 'Revived Soul,' Kusama creates a pattern by painting small polka dots.
A close up of the 1995 work.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
A close up of the 1995 work.
Kusama often created collages before painted over them with polka dots. This 1967 piece is called 'Self-Obliteration No. 2.'
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama often created collages before painted over them with polka dots. This 1967 piece is called 'Self-Obliteration No. 2.'
With 'Sprouting,' Kusama creates a pattern by painting small polka dots.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
With 'Sprouting,' Kusama creates a pattern by painting small polka dots.
Kusama’s 1984 installation 'The Clouds' is made of sewn fabric and paint.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama’s 1984 installation 'The Clouds' is made of sewn fabric and paint.
Kusama’s installations often include fabric protusions.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
Kusama’s installations often include fabric protusions.
This work, 'Walking Piece,' includes photographs of Kusama walking the streets of New York City in a pink kimono.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
This work, 'Walking Piece,' includes photographs of Kusama walking the streets of New York City in a pink kimono.
A close up of the patterns on her 1994 piece 'Yellow Trees,' which is a 5-foot by-12 foot canvas.
Guia Marie Del Prado/WNYC
A close up of the patterns on her 1994 piece 'Yellow Trees,' which is a 5-foot by-12 foot canvas.

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