Q&A: Illustrious Artist Yayoi Kusama’s Vision for Ornamental Bronze Pumpkin, Infinity Nets Paintings in NYC’s Sky Tower

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Yayoi Kusama

Designed with David Rockwell’s stylish vision, and in collaboration with the New York Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony on a luxury, professional-grade basketball court, The Moinian Group’s newest residential tower Sky is designed for Manhattan, New York’s sophisticated millennial.

At the forefront of the building, an infinity loop motor court circles an enormous ornamental bronze pumpkin, dotted in black stone––an original work of art by illustrious Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama that was commissioned for Sky

At the forefront of the building, an infinity loop motor court circles an enormous ornamental bronze pumpkin, dotted in black stone––an original work of art by illustrious Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama that was commissioned for Sky

At the forefront of the building, an infinity loop motor court circles an enormous ornamental bronze pumpkin, dotted in black stone. It’s an original work of art by illustrious Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama that was commissioned for Sky, as were several other pieces showcased throughout the building. In the “Art Library” of the lobby, Kusama’s twin Infinity Nets paintings hang above the fireplace at each end as additional pieces of aesthetic elegance.

On Kusama’s artistic vision for each piece, we spoke with Fabian Lang, who is the director of sales for Victoria Miro, London’s acclaimed contemporary art gallery, and who worked with Kusama to curate custom artwork for Sky.

Haute Residence: Yayoi Kusama created several custom pieces for Sky. How does each piece align with her artistic style and vision?

Fabian Lang: While Kusama’s extraordinary artistic endeavors over the past 70 years have spanned painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, performance, film, printmaking, installation, and environmental art, as well as literature, fashion, and product design, an enduring feature of her art is the intricate lattice of paint that covers the surface of her Infinity Net canvases. Composed of repeated, looping brush marks across the canvas, each of which leaves a negative dot at its center, Kusama’s nets suggest an endless lattice, conjured less by hand, it seems, than emanating from deep within the psyche. Forging a path between abstract expressionism and minimalism, Kusama first showed her white Infinity Nets in New York in the late 1950s to critical acclaim. She continues to develop their possibilities in monochromatic works, which are covered with undulating meshes that seem to fluctuate and dissolve as the viewer moves around them. Obsessively handmade, the Infinity Nets are endlessly self-referential and self-generating. The ultimate, immersive expression of her lifelong exploration of infinity, illusion, self-obliteration, and repetition they attest to Kusama’s singularity of vision, her tireless commitment and legendary endurance.

HR: Specifically, talk about Kusama’s vision for the bronze pumpkin sculpture in front of Sky.

FL: The pumpkin form has been a motif in Kusama’s art since the late 1940s. Coming from a family that made its living cultivating plant seeds, Kusama was familiar with the kabocha squash in the fields that surrounded her childhood home. It was in early childhood that Kusama also began to experience the terrifying visual and auditory hallucinations that left her “dazzled and dumbfounded” by repeating patterns that engulfed her field of vision, flashing and glittering around her, a process she referred to as obliteration. It was after Kusama’s return to Japan from New York in the 1970s that she began to revisit the pumpkin form. It has come to represent for her a kind of alter-ego or self-portrait­­––part-organic, part-conceptual–– and occupies a special place in her iconography. Enchanted by their “charming and winsome” forms as she describes them, the artist has said it is the pumpkin’s “general unpretentiousness” that appeals to her. Kusama’s bronze pumpkin sculptures integrate many key aspects of her practice: the repeating pattern of dots, a juxtaposition of light and dark, connotations of growth and fertility, and the almost-mythical status of the pumpkin in her art.

HR: Does Kusama intend to contribute original works to other New York-based projects in the future?

FL: Having established herself in New York in the mid-1960s by staging groundbreaking happenings, events, and exhibitions, Kusama feels a deep connection with the city and was thrilled to be welcomed so warmly on the occasion of her 2012 retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art. A major exhibition of Kusama’s work, focusing on the evolution of her immersive Infinity Mirror Rooms, will tour the U.S. and Canada next year, beginning at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., in February 2017.

Images courtesy of Sky / Scott McDermott

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