Yayoi Kasuma at Victoria Miro
Many people would recognise Yayoi Kusama's work without necessarily knowing her name (a collaboration with Louis Vuitton in 2012 does help with that!) Her work is widely appealing; the colours are bright and fun, the patterns can seem childlike and endearing and the glossy pumpkins make you feel like you are in Willy Wonka's fantasy. It is also personal and obsessive, deeply connected with her mental health and she has spent a great deal of her life in a psychiatric hospital. Her themes include cosmic infinity, personal obsession, and the sublime which she continues to explore through pattern and repetition as she approaches her 90th birthday.
Yayoi Kusama was born in 1929 in Matsumoto City, she studied painting in Kyoto and moved to New York in the 1950s where she exhibited alongside (and may have influenced) peers such as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and George Sega. She rose to fame in the pop art sphere thanks to her trademark polka dots, performance art and use of psychedelic colours. She became known for provocative happenings including ticketed polka dot orgies, anti-war protests etc.
The pumpkin, its patterns and textures is a recurring motif in her work and she has described these works as a form of self-portraiture.
The exhibition at Victoria Miro is the debut of this new infinity mirror piece which is created from simple paper lanterns covered with polka dot patterns with colour changing bulbs within. Pictures cannot capture how immersive this really is. Gallery attendants warned us that we may fall over if we were not careful and we laughed them off until we were submerged in light and mirrors and immediately lost all sense of space and physical presence. The lights rhythmically move between the colours and the lanterns take on the feeling of benevolent UFOs.
Heidi Bucher at Parasol Unit Gallery
Heidi Bucher is an artist that I had not been aware of before this exhibition at Parasol Unit Gallery. She was born in 1926 in Switzerland and attended the School for the Applied Arts in Zurich. On display at the Parasol Unit Gallery were her latex casts of room interiors which hung eerily from the walls or were suspended in the room like butchered hides waiting to be scraped. She herself referred to them as as Häutungen (skinnings). The texture, colour and process of the latex creates haunting imprints os the surfaces, such as doors and balustrades and she felt it liberated them from the memories they held for her. I was also interested in the process by which these pieces were created; first covered her chosen surface with gauze, pressed liquid latex into it - videos showed her and her team tenderly smoothing this onto walls and bodies with gloved hands - then when it was almost dry she peeled it off.
This piece as described by Heidi Bucher's daughter in this article on Elephant:
The full title description located on the back of the work translates to: “Anna Mannheimer believed in Basil. Around 1950, someone shot at the target and the animal was injured. As a child Anna Mannheimer was lonely.” This very intimate and suggestive work relates to her childhood and adolescence. Having been a single and lonely child with a traditional bourgeois upbringing, she rebelled against the expected standards and went on to study at the School of Applied Arts, Zurich. Later she met Basil in London, who was a British officer and one of her first great loves, he was injured before they got to properly know each other.
Borg, 1976. Textile, latex, mother-of-pearl pigments, bamboo.
The title 'Borg' originates from an old Germanic word for a castle or inner defence. The piece is a cast of the entrance to her studio in Zurich which was a former butcher's freeze - so the impression of rawness, death and serial killers that her work gives me might be well-founded. It is easy to only see the qualities and odious tactility of the latex but her son has written that he believes the key element of her work lays in textiles as carriers of information. Textiles are inextricably linked to female art practices (you only need to look at the Bauhaus movement where female students were siphoned into textiles and discouraged from other practices.) Heidi Bucher's work juxtaposes these ephemeral materials with 'masculine' materials found in architectural interiors. Adding the mother-of-pearl pigments in later works further increased the dreamy, feminine qualities and meanings in the pieces.
That's all for now!