Thursday, September 27, 2012

Yayoi Kusama Drawings from the Mid-50s at the D'Amelio Gallery

The Yayoi Kusama retrospective at the Whitney Museum is a fun show. It's a curious mix of the whimsical and the grotesque though I didn't find it as crazy as Kusama's exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1998, which featured her works from 1958-1968, her decade in New York City.

It's easy to be dismissive Kusama's most recent efforts, particularly her high profile collaboration with Louis Vuitton and the ensuing media blitz. Selling out would be putting things mildly. Her latest works on view at the Whitney feel empty, with a mechanical feel that contrasts with the humble scale of her heartfelt pieces at the beginning of her career.

So I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon the D’Amelio Gallery's show in Chelsea, Yayoi Kusama Drawings from the Mid-50s featuring twelve works on paper dating from 1953 -1957, all from the collection of Richard Castellane, Kusama’s New York dealer in the mid sixties.

The show illuminated my favorite period of Kusama's oeuvre, just before she went large scale, obsessive, and commercial. The D'Amelio pictures were executed in tempera, pastel, watercolor, and ink, and have a certain introspection of a struggling artist going within by exploring incandescent objects in dark, infinite space. They also presage Kusama's mental problems and fixation with repetitive forms in her later work.

It's a rare glimpse into Kusama's formative years and, in my opinion, perhaps the most deeply affecting expression of her creative vision. This exhibit will be on view until October 20, 2012.

Column No.1 (1953)
Tempera and pastel on buff paper
15 x 12 3/4 inches

Snow Ball in Sunset (Snow Ball in Sansunset) (1953) 
Pastel and tempera with black ink on red paper 
10 1/2 x 10 inches

Archaic Dance Costume (1953) 
Ink and gouache on paper 
11 5/8 x 8 7/8 inches

Ground (1953) 
Pastel, watercolor and ink 
14 1/8 x 10 inches

Tree No.1 (1953) 
Black ink and tempera on buff paper 
14 x 9 7/8 inches

No comments:

Post a Comment