Yayoi Kusama

AM was at Tate Modern on Tuesday to visit the major retrospective by Yayoi Kusama, whose separate show at Brisbane’s Gallery of Modern Art we recently covered. The London exhibition is spread over fourteen rooms and features a selection of works — drawing, painting, collage, film, sculpture and installation — spanning a period of six decades. Tate Modern director Chris Dercon was on hand to introduce the show and curator Frances Morris followed up with a guided tour. Their enthusiasm was certainly infectious. The artist herself made a big entrance during the preview. It was her first trip to the UK in twelve years, and for the occasion she donned a bright orange-red wig and matching kimono-like dress with white polka dots. If we ever make it past 80, that’s exactly what we plan to wear.

The Kusama retrospective opens on 9 February and continues until 5 June 2012. See more images and commentary after the jump.

'Dots Obsession'. 2009/2012. Balloons, vinyl stickers

'Lingering Dream'. 1949. Pigment on paper

Infinity Net paintngs

'Pacific Ocean'. 1960. Oil on canvas

'Pacific Ocean' (detail)

In our head, we had previously dismissed Kusama as “the one who does all those damn pumpkins”. After seeing the retrospective, however, we now concede that statement needs to be seriously qualified. The exhibition is strong and refreshingly diverse. It also happens to be pumpkin-free. Highlights for us were the Infinity Net paintings (Room 3) and a darkened room with domestic furnishings covered in fluorescent sticker spots, called I’m Here, but Nothing (Room 12). The exhibition finale is Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life (Room 14), a magical and disorienting walk-through, immersive environment consisting of reflective surfaces (mirrors and water) and LED bulbs constantly changing in colour.

We were pleased to hear that an Obliteration Room will also be opened at Tate Modern (McAulay Gallery, Level 1) from 9 February until 18 March. It’s the first version of this interactive project to be shown outside of Australia. Children and their families will be invited to transform an entirely white installation furnished as a living room into a colourful space filled with thousands of spot stickers. Having been wowed by photos taken at GoMA in Brisbane (covered here), we’re really looking forward to seeing the results of the London version in person.

Accumulation sculptures. 1962 - 1966

'The Man'. 1963. Sewn stuffed fabric, kettle, found objects, canvas, wood, paint

'Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show'. 1963. Rowboat and oars covered by plaster castings in white cotton, a pair of women's shoes and 999 black and white offset posters on paper

'Self-Obliteration'. 1967. Ink on photograph

Left to right: 'The Clouds'. 1984. Sewn stuffed fabric, paint; 'Revived Soul'. 1995. Acrylic on canvas

'Flame' (detail)

'Yellow Trees'. 1994. Acrylic on canvas

'Yellow Trees' (detail)

'I'm Here, but Nothing'. 2000/2012. Vinyl stickers, ultraviolet fluorescent lights, furniture, household objects

Recent paintings from 2009 and 2010

'Infinity Mirrored Room - Filled with the Brilliance of Life'. 2011. Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED lights, aluminium

Although the AM default setting is generally to root for the underdogs, we can’t help bringing out the pompons and playing cheerleader for the powerhouse that is Tate Modern. The curation at the museum never seems to miss a step. Over just the last two years, notable exhibitions have been put on for the likes of Francis Alÿs, Gauguin, Ai Weiwei, Gabriel Orozco, Miró, and most recently, Gerhard Richter, whose remarkable retrospective closed last month.

Portrait of Kusama kindly provided by Happy Famous Artists. Text and other photographs by Patrick Nguyen.