- KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, an exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden.
The NYBG is an incredibly special location to showcase the Japanese artist, known for her intensely coloured and often polka-dotted works, because it represents the world that has enraptured Yayoi Kusama since her childhood in Matsumoto, Japan, spent exploring the greenhouses and fields of her family’s seed nursery. A fascination that the curators have emphasised by interspersing the works of the exhibition with seasonal horticultural plants. This is how KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature manages to shine a spotlight on the power of nature, which has such a bold presence in the artist’s practice and portfolio. Indeed, guest curator Mika Yoshitake observed: "Nature is not only a central source of inspiration, but also integral to the visceral effects of Kusama’s artistic language in which organic growth and the proliferation of life are made ever-present."
A great many outdoor installations are featured in this exhibition, including monumental sculptures that transform the 250 acres that make up the New York Botanical Garden: the world’s most comprehensive botanical garden, founded in 1891 and an integral part of the cultural fabric of the Bronx in New York City.
For those exploring the exhibition, it will come as no surprise to find Kusama’s trademark polka-dotted organic shapes and hypnotic paintings of plants and flowers, but these are also complemented by some novel pieces created especially for the occasion: Flower Obsession (2017/2021), the Japanese artist’s first-ever obliteration greenhouse in the United States. These are rooms that Yayoi Kusama has been making for decades, and certainly some of her most entertaining and interactive creations, all based on a simple concept. For the uninitiated, this is how they work: each visitor who enters the space is given a page of stickers, which they are then free to place anywhere they like around the room, helping to give the entire work a dynamic appearance. Dynamic because over the entire course of its run, the installation space is continually transformed by the stickers themselves.
Other exclusive works featured include: Dancing Pumpkin (2020), a monumental sculpture presented on the Haupt Conservatory lawn; I Want to Fly to the Universe (2020), a 13-foot-high biomorphic form presented in the Visitor Center; Infinity Mirrored Room - Illusion Inside the Heart (2020), an outdoor installation reflecting its environs.
For an in-depth look at Yayoi Kusama’s work, guests can visit the Library Building to see a sketchbook dated 1945, revealing the artist’s keen eye for detail, even at the age of 16. Some 50 drawings capture the bloom cycle of tree peonies: a work that is an early product of the artist’s lifelong connection with the natural world that inspired her throughout her entire future career. But that’s not all: this section also features examples of her botanical drawings, works on paper, biomorphic collages, assemblage boxes, sculptures, and paintings on canvas depicting flora and its limitless variety of patterns. In short, in this exhibition which spans everything from monumental polka-dotted pumpkin sculptures to abstract paintings that resemble cells magnified thousands of times, Kusama’s works suggest the patterns that can be observed all around us.
The exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden, accompanied by an extensive programme of complementary events, is open until 31 October 2021, with visiting made possible by the organisers’ anti-COVID-19 protocol, i.e. with advanced, timed, limited-capacity tickets.
"KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature" exhibition
from 10 April to 31 October 2021
New York Botanical Garden, New York, USA
Images: see legends.
1) Dancing Pumpkin (2020), The New York Botanical Garden, 2021. Urethane paint on bronze. 196 7/8 x 116 7/8 x 117 ¼ in. (500 x 296.9 x 297.8 cm). Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts and David Zwirner. Robert Benson Photography