Friday, May 7, 2021

Yaoi Kusma’s ‘Cosmic Nature’ Dots a Bronx Garden


One thing the epidemic has deprived us of – for a while at least – is the narcotic experience of being lost in a crowd. For some people it is thrilling, for others unnecessary. It is always a point of view.

This is the sentiment I associate with the work of 92-year-old pop and conceptual artist Yaoi Kusma, best known for her infinity mirrors, crowded with polka dots in her paintings and sculptures – and fans. She is usually attracted to the crowd. Luckily, later this week you can dive into “Kusama: Cosmic Nature” in vertical views of dots and infinite reflections, a wide show of outdoor sculptures, with special gallery exhibitions and installation, New York Botanical’s Cherry of Flowers Set between garden. With a timely entry ticket and walking across 250 acres, Kusma also gets a rare chance to contemplate at the venue with a little elephant room.

Three years in the making, the show includes several ambitious pieces, plus a couple of simple revivals of the Kusama standards and a solid slightly retrospective of the opening drawings and performances. (The Home Gardening Center has a small free Infinity Room, – a small shed – but the garden will not open its interior until summer.) Not every new work is equally strong: “Dancing Pumpkin.” The ethereally speckled 16-foot yellow octopus, and “I Want to Fly to the Universe,” an aluminum sun with red tankling, are perfect; “Flower Obsession,” an installation that asks visitors to add stickers to the greenhouse, also very gimmicky.

But the overall idea of ​​setting Kusama’s repetitive points against the sharpness of the botanical garden is inspired. Kusama grew up in Matsumoto, Japan, where her grandparents operated a commercial nursery, and the plants greatly increased her mental life. She drew them – look for a pair of highly detailed pencil drawings she made as a teenager – and she hallucinated them, visiting dancing pansies and pumpkins as a child. (She also noticed optical patterns, and continued to struggle with her mental health, even moving to New York, staging protests and “events” there and moving back to Japan.)

Enid A. Haupt Conservatory offers amazingly subtle forms and colors, in the form of polyester wrappers patterned with brightly painted steel flowers with vibrant palms, or even plush trees. . Even more striking is the nature and artistry complement each other psychologically. Kusama’s hard-edged, comparatively cold polka dots reveal the dark side of the plants, their relentless, impersonal compression Growth, sex and caries. At the same time the real flowers highlight the widespread yearning of Kusama’s entire project, a bit desperate that this famous prolific artist has spent several decades building for himself.

Once you know what to look for, you can find it indoors, that too, especially in an installation called “Infinity Beyond the Pumpkin Scream About Love.” Yellow acrylic pumpkins fill a five-foot-square glass cube in a dark room near the main entrance to the garden with LED lights. At first, a small pumpkin lights up, as the child’s mind sinks in awareness. It is attractive and attractive to see surrounded by small and big figures. By the time more pumpkins are turned on, the panels of the box become two-sided mirrors, mimicking the small scene until you remain in an inevitable infinity.

“Narcissus Garden,” the show’s quiet showstopper, is a revival of a piece that originated with Kusama – rather, near – 1966 Venice Biennale. Without an invitation to participate, Kusama stood to exclude gawkers and collectors with 1,500 reflective steel, the size of bowling balls and a sign that read “Narcissism for your sale”. (She had a chance to show her officially in 1993, when she was Japanese Pavilion.) Here in the Bronx, the piece speaks more commonly to human pretense. Floating on an artificial wetland water in the native plant garden, steel balls move back and forth across schools, packing themselves tightly against the edges with gentle clicking sounds and sometimes set alone. I watched a drift slowly like an alien ship, past a bizarre duck.

The duck looked unattractive. Maybe I’m doing the project, but maybe that’s it – it’s hard not to look at myself in a mirror, especially one that runs with such purpose. In the end, of course, my eye catching ball was no different from any other, and they were all mechanically on the tide. But I can’t think of a better way to spend a spring afternoon than to see them.

Julia Carmel contributed reporting.


Kusma: Cosmic nature

October 10 through April 31, New York Botanical Garden, 2900 Southern Boulevard, Bronx; 718.817.8700, nybg.org. Timely ticket entry.



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