Monday, March 9, 2009

Yaiyoi kusama

Yayoi kusama Is Japan's Bjork. Easily mistaken for contemporary art, this show ranges from Pop kitsch to outsider art the earlier you go.

Like most kinds of pop arts, it comes with dilute disappontment add to this the show is fragmented. None of the works really speak to each other, and the themes seem to be dots, phalluses and reptition. In her black and white print room which dates back to 2000. The images repeat lines and curves like an elaborate doodle on stretched canvas. The doodles show her talent for drawing lines and eyes but are otherwise unimpressive and reminiscent of the graphic art movements of the same decade. Actually all the works seem to be very "now" for their time. Flower Orgy depicts hippies painting dots on each other and then, well having an orgy and Flower Obsession Sunflower looks like a teletubbies episode directed and acted by Bjork.

However I'm Here But Nothing 2000 is a fantastic ultraviolet room with colourful dots meticulously distributed on the walls and furniture. No axis of space was left untouched. The dots glow and interrupt your perception of near and far by uniformly patterning the visual space. This work is a description of her experience with hallucinations. Her polka dot hallucinations have become a strong motif in her art. The bit that irked me in this work was the considered placement of vintage magazines for all those retro fans.

I became so sure that Kusama is hideously overrated that I worried that maybe I was just a hater. The MCA have made a great big hoo ha about this artist and I'm twenty four saying she could do better. I worried that if I put my opinion out there, I'd be speaking above my competence. So in my moment of self doubt I looked up some info about Kusama and came across biographical and info plus some images of other works.

Yayoi has cred. She's been making works for almost half a century and partying with the elite "it" of 1960s New York art scene which often overshadowed her own artistic brilliance. Being a woman of "small stature" was continuously frustrating for her in her early NY days, but exhibiting with the likes of Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns, to name a few, was a good indication that she had something. She gained a reputation for her business savvy while Warhol was still coming up with his "business art of art business". So far I haven't even mentioned that she was the first woman to receive japans most prestigious award for internaional art - the Praemium Imperiale in 2006.

So how did this show get it so wrong? Well they did a retrospective and like so many retrospectives they missed THE key curatorial task: get the right artworks. Get that giant dotted pumpkin, put it in with the serpent bits coming out of the wall or anywhere but get it IT'S great! Unfortunately this time around the MCA dumbed down the exhibition to wow us with mirrors and puffy faux cushions - don't blame it on Yayoi.

Having said all this, if you're stuck for an activity and don't have the cash to see the dugongs, this exhibition is free and I know a ton of people who love it....... Maybe I'm just a hater after all.

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