From the Catalogue: Yayoi Kusama

Jun 18, 2016 1:49PM

Painted in 1991 and 1993, these two paintings entitled Pumpkin feature one of the most ubiquitous motifs in the artist’s iconography. Originating from a passion for the natural world rooted in an upbringing within a family of seedling merchants, Kusama recalls the beginnings of her obsession with the plant: ‘The first time I ever saw a pumpkin was when I was in elementary school and went with my grandfather to visit a big seed-harvesting ground…and there it was: a pumpkin…It immediately began speaking to me in a most animated manner.’ (Y. Kusama, Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, trans. Ralph McCarthy, London 2011, p.75)

In these two paintings hypnotising rows of varying-sized dots, gently undulating, coalesce into the pleasantly swollen and rippling forms of the humble pumpkin. The irregular and bulbous protrusions of the plant serve to make each one decisively unique. Dichromatic palettes are at once both striking and restrained, serving to emphasise the rugged texture of the pumpkins. The polka dot and infinity net patterns that the pumpkins are comprised of and that surround them in the background exemplify the fundamental characteristic of the Kusama’s art: infinite repetition. 

She has described her images of pumpkins as a form of self-portraiture, with their hardiness and everyday qualities, in addition to their organic spiritual significance, speaking to her own character. These plants represent a positive childhood memory translated into a potent symbol of the artist that has lasted throughout her career. As the octogenarian icon nears ninety, it is these memories that resound, enabling optically mesmerising and deeply introspective canvases like Pumpkin 1991 and 1993. In Kusama’s own words: “It is for the pumpkins that I keep on going.” (Y. Kusama, “On Pumpkins,” 2010, Courtesy KUSAMA Enterprise, Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London,