Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

JOINING UP THE DOTS; EXHIBITION; YAYOI KUSAMA Tate Modern, SE1

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

JOINING UP THE DOTS; EXHIBITION; YAYOI KUSAMA Tate Modern, SE1

Article excerpt

Byline: BEN LUKE

YAYOI KUSAMA'S polka dots have become so ubiquitous on the global art scene that they have, to an extent, suffocated her own history. Recently, they have overwhelmed vast flowers, pumpkins and giant inflatables with a cartoonish playfulness typical of Japanese kawaii cuteness. But the polka dots have troubling origins in Kusama's childhood hallucinations, and were once a tool of social protest, among other things. Although dotty inflatable balls greet you outside Tate Modern's exhibition of 60 years of Kusama's work, much of it explores her work before the past two decades, retrieving her from confectionery-coloured kookiness and reaffirming her as a truly radical and pioneering figure.

The first two rooms are a revelation. They reveal Kusama's speedy escape from Japanese Nihonga traditions into an idiosyncratic adoption of Western modern art, in paintings heavy with the apocalyptic mood of post-atom bomb Japan. A group of drawings from the early Fifties are so densely woven and exquisite that they could occupy hours of your time. Influenced by surrealism, they see Kusama formulating her lifelong artistic language, including the polka dots. …

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