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If you could get inside their minds.

June 28, 2009

 'Walking in My Mind' exhibition by Yayoi Kusama 

Yayoi Kusama’s installation Metamorphosis, part of Walking in My Mind, Hayward Gallery, London Photograph: David Levene

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama once wrote to Richard Nixon offering to paint his body with her trademark polka dots. It was 1968 and her aim was political. Tricky Dicky would be so soothed by the experience, she believed, that he would immediately halt the war in Vietnam. The president clearly took a raincheck.

It may be worth keeping this anecdote in mind when visiting the Hayward’s new show where Kusama’s dots spread contagiously over every inch of an entire gallery before spilling out to a balcony scattered with what look like gigantic mercury globules. Even the trees on the South Bank have come out in spots. Kusama has spoken of the hallucinations she suffered as a child, of seeing dots both inside and outside her head and of her work as emerging from this dizzy continuum. But the personal was also political.

Yet you would never think from this show that Kusama had been a pioneer of Sixties happenings, of polka-dot parades against Vietnam. Nor that she was a formative influence on Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol. She is presented here as an octogenarian obsessive, a woman who has chosen to live in a psychiatric institution since 1973 for whom art is lifesaving therapy. She has said as much herself, it is true, but she also speaks of herself as a dot lost in a milling universe of dots. At the very least, her work is metaphorical.

Read more at:  If you could get inside their minds…


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