YAYOI KUSAMA at VICTORIA MIRO 16 Wharf Road, London N1 7RW & 14 St George Street, London W1S 1FE 25 May to 30 July 2016 http://www.victoria-miro.com/
An hour long queue stretches outside Victoria Miro's East London gallery space, tucked between Angel and Old Street. Inside is a new exhibition by Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, the subject of Tate Modern's 2012 blockbuster show, one of TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People, and the world's most popular artist, according to recent museum attendance figures. Explains the queue.
Extending to Victoria Miro's Mayfair location, the exhibition across the two venues features new paintings, pumpkin sculptures, and mirror rooms, all made in the last year especially for this presentation.
Inside the East London site and there's another queue, this time for one of the three mirror rooms, each of which place the viewer within a universe of varying proliferating reflections. In 'All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins' we are ushered in to the black box two at a time, greeted by a sea of squash, illuminated like lanterns. The humble pumpkin has been a recurring theme in Kusama's work since the 1940's, owing to her upbringing in a family of seedling merchants in Japan. The psychedelic yellow, repeated and reflected in the dark, makes for an immersive, disorientating experience, one that demands more than the ten seconds allotted by the gallery assistant with the stopwatch outside.
Similarly, in Chandelier of Grief, a small group is locked in a nightclub like cavern with a glittering, spinning chandelier and pulsating light. Outside Where the Lights in My Heart Go explores the potential of natural light. Here the polished stainless steel cube is punctured with small holes, creating a constellation of stars for the viewer observing from within. This work sits in the gallery's manicured garden, beside Kusama's 1966 installation of floating stainless steel spheres, Narcissus Garden, which is on permanent display in the pond.
Upstairs in the expansive gallery, a converted Victorian furniture factory, is a series of paintings, again preoccupied by repetition and illusion. The canvases, executed in therapeutic greens, blues and whites feature Kusuma's characteristic polka dot motifs and the dense, scalloped webs of her 'Infinity Nets' series.
The Mayfair outpost of the gallery presents more new paintings from the ongoing series My Eternal Soul, which Kusama first began in 2009. Bolder and brighter, these canvases fizz with energy, playfully populated with eyes, faces and other indeterminate objects. Like Kusama herself the paintings are wacky and magical, but it's the ten seconds with the dreamy pumpkins that make the hour long queue worth the wait.