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February 08, 2012

Yayoi Kusama at the Tate Modern

By Rachel Wolff | Art

Yayoi Kusama, The Passing Winter (detail) 2005 / © Tate. Presented by the Asia Pacific Acquisitions Committee 2008. Photo: Tate Photography

Long before Damien Hirst could so much as hold a paintbrush—never mind direct a team of underlings in executing canvases carefully spattered with perfectly round, candy-colored orbs—the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama claimed “the spot” as her own. Her take is vastly different from what we’ve come to expect of Hirst’s sterile, minimalist tableaux. Kusama’s spots have appeared on abstract sculptures, room-size installations, tree trunks, lawns, robes and, in several 1960s-era performances, naked bodies. For Kusama, 82, spots represent a sort of interior landscape—the mind’s frenzied synapses, swirling and swelling as we take in the world around us. They also represent Kusama’s own history of psychosis, which, in 1977, pushed her to check into a Japanese wellness facility, where she still resides today. A wide swath of the artist’s 60-some years of creative output will go on view February 9 through June 5 at London’s Tate Modern, courtesy of Louis Vuitton (the luxe label has also enlisted Kusama’s spotty talents for a yet-to-be-released collaboration). Highlights include 13 of the artist’s trippy environments, showing off the many motifs and materials Kusama has used throughout her lengthy career. At Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG; 44-20/7887-8888; tate.org.uk.