Yayoi Kusama, Fireflies on the Water, 2002. Mirrors, plexiglass, lights, and water, 111 × 144 1/2 × 144 1/2 in. (281.9 × 367 × 367 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase with funds from the Postwar Committee and the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and partial gift of Betsy Wittenborn Miller 2003.322. © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph by Sheldan C. Collins
Yayoi Kusama. Infinito Presente
17 NOVEMBER 2023 – 14 JANUARY 2024
Palazzo della Ragione, Piazza Vecchia, Bergamo
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From 17 November 2023 to 14 January 2024, Palazzo della Ragione in Bergamo will be the theatre of an extraordinary artistic and cultural operation.
In fact, it will be possible to visit the exhibition by Yayoi Kusama (Matsumoto, Japan, 1929), who will bring Fireflies on the Water, one of her most iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms from the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, to the heart of Bergamo.
The initiative, promoted by The Blank Contemporary Art and the Municipality of Bergamo, is curated by Stefano Raimondi.
The exhibition path delves into the artist’s poetics and oeuvre through timelines, documentation and film footages, ultimately creating a space for sharing the experience both physically and digitally. At the heart of the exhibition, Fireflies on the Water is a room-sized installation designed to be viewed intimately, one person at a time. As the title suggests, the lights seem almost natural, like fireflies on a quiet summer’s night. The pool of water creates an incredible sense of stillness. On entering the space, the mirrors reflect never-ending images of themselves, creating a sidereal ambience. Space appears infinite, without top or bottom, beginning or end. As in Yayoi Kusama’s early installations, including her Infinity Mirror Room (1965), Fireflies on the Water embodies an almost hallucinatory approach to reality. Although linked to the artist’s personal mythology and the process of therapeutic work, this work also references sources as diverse as the myth of Narcissus and Kusama’s native Japanese landscape.
For Kusama, art and life are inextricably intertwined: born in Matsumoto, Japan, in 1929, her family belonged to the upper-middle class and had planned a specific position in society for her. As a child, however, Kusama began to have auditory and visual hallucinations.
Right from the start, art turned out to be a necessary and therapeutic element with which to manage her hallucinations. Dedicating herself to the study of art with great passion, despite opposition from her family, she was struck by the paintings of the artist Georgia O’Keeffe and decided to write to her. It was after receiving her reply that Yayoi Kusama decided to move to the United States in 1958, going first to Seattle and then to New York. Here she initially found considerable difficulties in the artistic environment, both because it was a strongly male-dominated environment and because of her Japanese origins, but she soon began to make a name for herself with her works. As early as the 1960s, Kusama consolidated her position in the New York avant-garde and was considered a revolutionary for the time.
After having achieved worldwide fame, in 1973 Yayoi Kusama returned to Japan. She spontaneously checked into a psychiatric institution in 1977, where she still lives to this day. However, this has in no way prevented her from renting a studio in front of the hospital, where she goes every day to paint. Over the years, she has continued to write and work, even collaborating with famous fashion brands and devoting herself entirely to her research, painting pictures as well as writing novels and poems.