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

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.
In this installation, called 'Whitney Accumulation No. 1, 1963,' Kusama sewed stuffed fabric to shoes, chairs and furniture. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
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 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 )
Kusama’s work ranges from canvas paintings to watercolor collages. This 1975 work is called 'Eyes of the Night.'
Kusama’s work ranges from canvas paintings to watercolor collages. This 1975 work is called 'Eyes of the Night.' ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
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.
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 )
Kusama’s sculptures often feature long, white protrusions. This one from 1991 is called 'Heaven and Earth.'
Kusama’s sculptures often feature long, white protrusions. This one from 1991 is called 'Heaven and Earth.' ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
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’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 )
Kusama created these large colorful paintings in Japan in 2009 and 2010.
Kusama created these large colorful paintings in Japan in 2009 and 2010. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
Kusama’s retrospective at the Whitney is open to the public until September 30.
Kusama’s retrospective at the Whitney is open to the public until September 30. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
In the early 1960s, Kusama sculpted artworks from fabric, plaster and macaroni on common items like hats, shoes and clothing.
In the early 1960s, Kusama sculpted artworks from fabric, plaster and macaroni on common items like hats, shoes and clothing. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
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.
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 )
In 'Revived Soul,' Kusama creates a pattern by painting small polka dots.
In 'Revived Soul,' Kusama creates a pattern by painting small polka dots. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
A close up of the 1995 work.
A close up of the 1995 work. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
Kusama often created collages before painted over them with polka dots. This 1967 piece is called 'Self-Obliteration No. 2.'
Kusama often created collages before painted over them with polka dots. This 1967 piece is called 'Self-Obliteration No. 2.' ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
With 'Sprouting,' Kusama creates a pattern by painting small polka dots.
With 'Sprouting,' Kusama creates a pattern by painting small polka dots. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
Kusama’s 1984 installation 'The Clouds' is made of sewn fabric and paint.
Kusama’s 1984 installation 'The Clouds' is made of sewn fabric and paint. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
Kusama’s installations often include fabric protusions.
Kusama’s installations often include fabric protusions. ( Guia Marie Del Prado )
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 )
A close up of the patterns on her 1994 piece 'Yellow Trees,' which is a 5-foot by-12 foot canvas.
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 )
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