Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama personally introduced rooms full of characteristically technicolor, large-scale work yesterday at a preview of her inaugural exhibition with David Zwirner Gallery in New York, "I Who Have Arrived in Heaven" (through Dec. 21). Kusama left Gagosian Gallery in January, concluding a five-year partnership.
Twenty-seven eye-poppingly colorful new 6-foot-square paintings, two mirrored infinity rooms and a video projection fill Zwirner's three contiguous locations on West 19th Street. Zwirner introduced Kusama at the preview, saying that this was only the second time all of his gallery's spaces had been given over to a single-artist show. "We changed the architecture to accommodate the installations she wanted to bring," said Zwirner.
Those installations include the debut of Mirrored Room-the Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013), a cube-shaped, mirror-paneled infinity room featuring hundreds of flickering, multicolored LED lights hung at various heights from the ceiling. The other infinity room, Love is Calling (2013), is also mirror-paneled, but it is lit by tentacle-shaped inflatables covered in Kusama's trademark polka dots that both rise from the floor and dangle from the ceiling.
From a wheelchair, sporting a bright pink bob and wearing a yellow-and-black dress boldly patterned with polka dots, 84-year-old Kusama spoke humbly and openly (through a translator) about her troubled past, her hopes for this work, her long-term self-commitment to a mental institution in Japan, and her future. "As I approach death, I'm still full of big hope that we all have the power to spread love and peace," she said. "Please help spread this message of love and world peace. If you can be happy with my artwork, if you can feel something from my work, there is nothing more joyous for me than that." Asked about the biomorphic shapes, faces and eyes that recur in the paintings, she said: "All parts of the body are proof of life. The eyes can discern peace and love and help us open to those things."
Also in the show is the video projection Manhattan Suicide Addict (2010-present), the title of which references a suicide attempt Kusama made by jumping out of a window in New York. It shows Kusama in close-up, singing a poem she wrote around the time of her attempted suicide, with her own psychedelic, cosmic designs in the background. "It was a difficult time mentally and spiritually," Kusama said yesterday, "but that is when this poetry was born."
Kusama concluded by talking about how hard she continues to work. "I'm using all my creativity to make art from early in the morning to late at night, sometimes 3:00 A.M. I made this work from shabby, difficult feelings I've always had. I want to share my love and sense of peace with all of you. I really pray for happiness."