Yayoi Kusama Art Now at The Whitney Museum of American Art

Yayoi Kusama Art at The Whitney Museum of American Art, Manhattan.

We were definitely late to the Yayoi Kusama party, only having "discovered" this deeply troubled, deeply talented artist in 2006, at an exhibition at Robert Miller in Chelsea (which, by the way, is why we love strolling through the Chelsea gallery district, because you never know what you might find behind the next frosted-glass door). Anyway, since that day we've been massive Yayoi Kusama art fans, have seen Yayoi Kusama art at the Gagosian, and enjoyed stumbling upon several pieces of her public art (the flowers at the Beverly Garden Park were a particularly nice surprise), and even had the great fortune to be able to spend an almost unlimited amount of time one day in Kusama's beautiful, mind-blowing Fireflies on the Water installation. And now, here's this fantastic career-spanning retrospective of Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Good news, indeed.  

Yayoi Kusama's tentacled garden of sculptural delights, Heaven and Earth at The Whitney.

The Whitney Museum NYC & Yayoi Kusama Art

Everything in the Whitney's Yayoi Kusama retrospective is instantly engaging on both an aesthetic and emotional level, and the journey you take from the artist's earliest works, her darkest watercolors and drawings from the 1950s, to her most recent, brilliantly-colored, often polka-dotted paintings and sculptures, shows a remarkable consistency of theme and tone, even as her medium of choice (which include fashion, performance art, and furniture design) and color palette changes. It's all recognizably Yayoi Kusama: hallucinatory, disciplined, playful, slightly disturbing. If you know anything about Kusama's life, this is no surprise: hallucinations overwhelmed her as a child and young adult, provoking her "Infinity Net" paintings; and she has lived in a psychiatry hospital in Japan since 1977 been in a mental institution for 40 years–this is no surprise. 

Body Festival by Yayoi Kusama at The Whitney exhibition in NYC.

Yayoi Kusama Gallery at The Whitney NYC

Picking favorites in a show like Yayoi Kusama at the Whitney is impossible, because, really, we loved it all. The drawings and water colors, which have more than a little Kandinsky to them, were the least familiar pieces to us, so it's possible we spent more time in this room than any other (and we doubled back to view these again). And the documentation of Kusama's time in New York City during the mid-1960s–the wild, hilarious flyers of political protests and "body festivals"–are great both from a historical as well as artistic perspective. And her collages are fantastic. But it's the exhibition's final two rooms, crammed full of Kusama's big, bright, and crazy-busy pieces (including Yellow Trees, the triptych Revived Soul, and the tentacled garden of sculptural delights, Heaven and Earth) that are sure to be most crowd-pleasing. 

Yellow Trees by Yayoi Kusama Gallery at The Whitney NYC.

Yayoi Kusama Fireflies on the Water

One final note: in the Whitney's lobby Yayoi Kusama's walk-in installation Fireflies in the Water (below) will be on display until October 28. Access to the mirrored, magical, twinkling room limited to one person at a time, and for one minute only, but if you can get a timed-ticket, this is definitely worth a visit. Also! Kusama's bright and blobby Guidepost to the New Space is currently on view at Pier 45, in Hudson River Park, opposite Christopher Street. And! She also did the exterior and the windows of the Louis Vuitton store on Fifth Avenue. 

Yayoi Kusama's walk-in installation Fireflies in the Water in the Whitney's lobby.

Yayoi Kusama at The Whitney NYC Details

The Yayoi Kusama retrospective will be at the Whitney until September 30. The Whitney Museum of American Art is located on Madison Avenue between 75th and 74th Streets. The Whitney NYC is open on Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and until 9:00 p.m. on Fridays. Note that admission is "pay-what-you-wish" every Friday from 6:00 p.m. until closing. For more information, please see the Whitney's website.

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