Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at Tate Modern is as much about the artist as it is about me. And you. And every person, who looking at her work finds a bit of his or her life mirrored in the unfolding story.
Kusama is the young girl from Matsumoto City, Japan who struggled to paint despite family opposition and wartime shortages. She is also the person who when she finally reached New York, climbed to the top of the Empire State Building and promised herself that one day she would conquer New York and make a name for herself in the world. A suitcase full of drawings, an obsessive love for art, and mountains of creative energy are what carried her through to her promise.
Kusama’s work depicts her hallucinations and feelings of being overwhelmed by a universe she saw as repetitive and infinite; a compulsive practice, a proliferation of duplicates and a fantastic conversion of an internal obsession into something tangible yet surreal. And that is the genius of art, and more so Kusama’s art. To make others feel and see what she does (albeit aesthetically), is where she succeeds, confuses and submerges her audience.
Being a woman, an artist and Japanese, were all aspects Kusama had to struggle with while building her career. And then when she had achieved it all, came the exhaustion and the need to retreat. And retreat she did back to Japan, where she checked herself into a mental health institution that she still stays in today.
But in her do we see an example of a new beginning; a starting from scratch in a country she had left a long while ago.
It’s called managing madness. And making something productive out of it.
So go to Tate Modern and immerse yourself in all things Kusama. Feel lucky to see her early works, at peace with her Infinity Net works, shake your head at her phallic Accumulation sculptures and performance videos, fall in love with her use of colour and the renewed energy of her recent acrylic works, and bury yourself in the surrealism and the infinity of her installations.
Love it, hate it, but you won’t go away without feeling something. And that’s a guarantee with Kusama.
Upto 5 June 2012