KUSAMA: COSMIC NATURE
May 09 – November 01, 2020
New York Botanical Garden, Bronx
The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) announced highlights of its expansive 2020 exhibition KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature, featuring work by internationally celebrated Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929), including new experiences and immersive installations, four of which will debut at the Botanical Garden. NYBG is the exclusive venue for KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature. On view May 9 through November 1, 2020, the exhibition will be installed in and around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, across the Garden’s 250 acres, and in the LuEsther T. Mertz Library Building.
The exhibition reveals Kusama‘s lifelong fascination with the natural world beginning in her childhood spent in the greenhouses and fields of her family’s Nakatsutaya seed nursery. Multiple installations will be on view, including her signature mirrored environments and organic forms, colossal polka-dotted sculptures of flora, and mesmerizing paintings of plants and flowers and their diversity of colors and patterns. Several of these works are newly completed and will be shown along with archival works that have never been publicly exhibited, and more that will be on view for the first time in the United States.
Complementing the artworks on view, Garden horticulturists will create spectacular in- and outdoor displays through the seasons. Glorious displays of tulips and irises in spring transform into masses of pumpkins and autumnal flowers in fall. Kusama’s plant-inspired polka-dotted sculptures will be installed across the Garden in dialogue with meadow grasses, bellflowers, water lilies, and other plantings. In the Conservatory, stunning floral presentations will bring one of Kusama‘s paintings on view in the Library Building to life through a seasonal progression of violas, salvias, zinnias, chrysanthemums, and other colorful annuals. In fall, displays of meticulously trained kiku (Japanese for “chrysanthemum” and one of the country’s most heralded fall-flowering plants) will create a dramatic finale for the exhibition.
The exhibition will include works from throughout Kusama’s prolific career and multifaceted practice. On display in the Mertz Library Building, her sketchbooks from adolescence signal the beginning of Kusama‘s connection with the natural world that has inspired her aesthetic and practice across mediums. This early work also portends avant-garde ideas she developed while living in New York between 1958 and 1973, as a contemporary of Joseph Cornell, Eva Hesse, Donald Judd, and Claes Oldenburg, and continues to explore rigorously today.
The Library Building presentation will also feature examples of her botanical sketches, paintings, works on paper, biomorphic collages, assemblages, and recent soft sculpture and canvas works depicting flora and their limitless variety of patterns. Life (2015) provides an immersive experience as visitors navigate a circular space enclosing polka-dotted forms with mosaic surfaces. Pumpkins Screaming About Love Beyond Infinity (2017) comprises a mirrored cube reflecting an infinity of polka-dotted pumpkins. It is accompanied by a statement by the artist that reads, in part, “My pumpkins, beloved of all the plants in the world. When I see pumpkins, I cannot efface the joy of them being my everything, nor the awe I hold them in.”
On the Conservatory Lawn showcasing Dancing Pumpkin, Garden horticulturists will design an immersive landscape of river birches, flowering plants, grasses, ferns, and whimsical topiary inspired by the sculpture. The exuberantly colored and patterned sculpture Hymn of Life: Tulips (2007) featurinthree outsized, fiberglass flowers will be on view around a Conservatory Courtyard pool, in conversation with the water lilies and other seasonal plantings. Two exhibition galleries in the Conservatory will be transformed into a horticultural celebration of Kusama‘s practice and her self-proclaimed biophilia. Starry Pumpkin (2015) adorned with pink and gold mosaic will be featured in a woodland garden of foliage and flowers chosen to harmonize with the sculpture’s pink polka dots. Using Kusama’s vibrant painting ALONE, BURIED IN A FLOWER GARDEN (2014) as inspiration, NYBG horticulturists designed a living work of art with plantings changing seasonally separated by rows of river rock to mimic the work’s bold shapes and colors. The patchwork of shapes in the painting reads as garden beds seen from above.
On view through November 1, 2020, the exhibition will provide ample opportunities to experience Kusama‘s work throughout the changing seasons as new plantings, textures, and palettes are introduced.