Fans of Japanese contemporary artist Yayoi Kusama need no introduction to the Kusama pumpkin- her dotted signature motif and yes, alter ego. Her pumpkins have been famously recreated from hotel rooms to textiles and designer hand bags by Louis Vuitton. She’s even taken us inside of their surreal, organic structure, as in her Selfridges London pop-up store this time last year. So the story goes, Kusama’s family once owned a storehouse full of pumpkins during World War II, and she developed a fondness for them. Ever since, she has continually used them throughout her career as a symbol of growth and fertility.
Just in time for Halloween, Victoria Miro in London is showing a new body of bronze sculptures and paintings 2 years in the making, simply titled “Pumpkins”. Her sculptures are notably the first time Kusama has worked with bronze at this scale. In her own words, “‘Pumpkin head’ was an epithet used to disparage ugly, ignorant men, and the phrase ‘Put eyes and a nose on a pumpkin’ evoked a pudgy and unattractive woman. It seems that pumpkins do not inspire much respect. But I was enchanted by their charming and winsome form. What appealed to me most was the pumpkin’s generous unpretentiousness. That and its solid spiritual base”. Colorful, hard and enduring, it’s not far-fetched to assume these strange vegetables as a portrait of Kusama.
“Pumpkins” by Yayoi Kusama is now on view at Victoria Miro gallery in London through October 4th (bronze sculptures through December 19th).
Yayoi Kusama, wearing one of her “pumpkin” designs.