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Massive Yayoi Kusama exhibit at TLV Museum of Art offers thrills and wonder

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It took years of patient waiting and making connections to bring the points, infinity rooms and installations on a large scale of Japanese artist Yaiwi Kosma to the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, where a major retrospective of this active artist, 92, opened on November 15th.

“This is an exhibition on such a scale,” said Susan Landau, the museum’s former chief curator, who is back to put together this colossal show. “You can’t take it for granted. It takes years and discussions and logistics and budgets.”

This wait is finally over and tickets are already sold out for November.

The museum’s main galleries, including the galleries in the new Amir building, are filled with Cosma’s artwork from her 80 years of work for Yaiwi Cosma: Retrospective.

The exhibition begins with two of Cosma’s pencil paintings from the age of five and nine – and already uses dots in her works – continues through her massive canvases, sculpted works, mirror works of infinity and ends with two installations created for this Israeli retrospective. Featuring a gallery full of fiery pink with dotted black inflatables that look like dinosaur tails towering over viewers.

It is an amazing collection of 250 works of art, divided into the various periods of Cosma, starting with her education in Matsumoto, Japan, and entering her first works created in the USA, where she moved temporarily in the late 50s, then in Europe and after moving back. To Japan, where she Lived for most of her long life.

Japanese artist Yaiwi Kosma, now 92, whose works are displayed in a huge retrospective at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, which opened on November 15, 2021 (courtesy of CC BY 4.0)

“She can speak to all ages and all people, to people who know her art and those who do not,” said Tanya Cohen-Uzieli, the museum’s director.

Bringing in Cosma’s artwork was Landau’s dream, said Cohen – Uzieli, who replaced Landau in 2018. She pointed to the feminine spirit and the avant-garde spirit that prevails in the exhibition.

Ironically, the opportunity to finally bring the work of the renowned Japanese artist to Israel finally became available at the beginning of the Corona plague, Landau said, when a colleague at Gropius Bau in Berlin offered the exhibition.

For Landau, hosting Cosma’s retrospective was high on the long wish list of solo exhibitions, having joined the Tel Aviv Museum of Art in 2012, after 34 years as curator at the Israel Museum. (Cohen-Uzieli and Chief Curator Mira Lapidot, who also attended the press tour of the Cosma exhibition, were Landau’s colleagues during his stay at the Israel Museum.)

“I told Tania, ‘It’s now or never,'” Landau said.

It took months of work, Landau said, in close collaboration with Kusama’s studio staff in Japan who had to approve every work, location and detail in the gallery.

Some of Kosma’s staff members came to Israel to upload the final exhibition, with special attention to the two facilities made especially for the exhibition, the narcissus garden of the pink inflatables and the endless room, a collection of blacks and more refined ones. – White and colorful artwork reflected in dozens of mirror balls located on the floor of the room.

Tap Get a first look at the new Infinity Room at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Exhibition by Japanese artist Yaiwi Kosma on October 31, 2021 (Photo: Tomer Neuberg / Flash90)

After the decision was made to host the retrospective, regardless of the dubious future given the raging epidemic, Landau wanted to create an exhibition that would be an emotional experience for the audience, while offering the historical perspective of Cosma.

“It’s seeing her art and who she is,” Landau said.

This is an exhibition that envelops the viewer from the first gallery, and introduces viewers to Kosma’s lifelong connection to points – completely circular or oval shapes, overlapping, arranged or dragging at random.

As Kosma matured and developed, her works of art grew in size, and later became installations and infinite mirror rooms for which she became famous, and examples of this are reproduced in the retrospective of the Tel Aviv Museum.

The Kaleidoscope Infinity Room at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Exhibition of the Japanese artist Yaiwi Kosma on October 31, 2021 (Photo by Tomer Neuberg / Flash 90)

The first infinity room is part of the Cosma phallus phase, a mirror room full of soft white bumps covered with red dots, forming a sea of ​​hand-sewn humps. The next infinity room allows viewers to peek through square windows into a rotating kaleidoscope of neon mirrors and lights, something resembling being inside a pinball machine.

The following gallery shows viewers Cosma’s black and yellow painted pumpkins, an object that Cosma saw as an alter ego and that formed the core of her work after returning to Japan in 1973. Apart from the magnificent golden pumpkin that formed the center of the gallery is its infinity pumpkin room, where pumpkins painted yellow are enlarged by mirrors to an alternate, spotted pumpkin spot.

The yellow and black polka dot pumpkins at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art exhibition by Japanese artist Yaiwi Kosma on October 31, 2021 (Photo: Tomer Neuberg / Flash 90)

Cosma refers to its vast dot fields as “infinity networks,” taken directly from its hallucinations. The exhibition addresses in its texts and videos the struggle documented throughout Kosma’s life in mental problems and her use of art to fight pain, anxiety and fear. She made herself at a psychiatric institute in Tokyo in 1977 and since then she has lived there, working in her studio across the street.

For the curators, however, the exhibition represents optimism through this avant-garde downfall, and the very fact that they have attracted it, even as the plague continues.

“There is nothing more fitting after the plague, which is still here, but the exhibition expresses optimism,” Landau said.

Tickets for Yayoi Kusama’s retrospective at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art sold out by November, with some Availability in December.

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