Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney. You really have to be there.
I waited in line a couple times before actually being able to get in. The line was sometimes too long, and I was ambitious and on a time budget... But it was fun seeing people lined up excited to see Kusama's work. Some people were even wearing polka dot clothes or carrying umbrellas with polka dot prints. (Is that the equivalent of wearing a band's t-shirt to their show? Who knows.)
It was only within the past year that I really researched Kusama's work---mostly because of my own fascination with polka dot prints. I mean, I've known of the name for awhile because of the Le Tigre song "Hot Topic" in which Kusama gets a shout out. The name always stuck with me. But her work was so immediately striking to me that Kusama has quickly become one of my favorites. There's something about Yayoi Kusama that just really speaks to me on many different levels.
For one thing the obsession and repetition that's present in the work appeals to me. I like those things. (Perhaps that's why I'm an avid knitter.) Doing one thing over and over so that it becomes something more, something almost meditative. Really looking into some of her pieces you can see beyond to something greater. It elevates her trippy, visually-stimulating pieces into introspective work.
There's also a lot of strange, organic shapes that seem to touch on something larger. Like this chair:
Have you ever seen what lifeforms look like at the deepest parts of the ocean where underwater volcanoes are? The conditions aren't suitable for life as we know it, yet life does exist. They're these strange, alien-like creatures that exist in the most basic forms. Unrecognizable shapes and creatures that make you think that this is what life looked like in the beginning of Earth. Kusama's playing with these organic and juxtaposing them with a chair, for instance. She's having them grow out of the chair to suggest something... What?
The meaning is something that's on the tip of my tongue, but maybe that's the furthest it's supposed to go. I get it but can't say it out loud. But why should I be able to? The artist should be able to keep some secrets from us. It's personal to Kusama.
You can tell it's personal by the way she photographs herself with her paintings or uses her own photos in her work. She's exploring something within herself.
My favorite artists always tend to incorporate themselves into their artwork somehow, which is something Kusama is really keen on doing. I am a fan of self portraits. Of myself and of others. I like to see to see how we change and don't change over time. I also like to see how artists work and connect with their work. It's endlessly fascinating.
When I finally got into the Whitney to see her work, I was (again) on a time budget. So, I didn't get to linger for as long as I'd like. But that's fine. It's the kind of exhibit I'd go back to see again and again. Kusama has over fifty years worth of artwork. The Whitney exhibition is only a survey of the greatness and mystery of Kusama, which means that luckily there is plenty more to see and to study.
Go see for yourself!