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In ‘Kusama: Cosmic Nature,’ a dialogue between art and the natural world

Yayoi Kusama’s work has been described as transformative: both for the observer and for her exhibit’s surroundings. The Japanese artist's latest exhibition, postponed initially because of the pandemic, aptly uses a 250-acre landscape as the setting for her exhibit “Cosmic Nature.” NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker reports from New York.

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  • Hari Sreenivasan:

    Her work has been described as transformative, both for the observer and for her exhibit's surroundings. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama's latest exhibition, postponed initially because of the pandemic, aptly uses a 250-acre landscape as the setting for her exhibit, 'Cosmic Nature'.

    NewsHour Weekend's Christopher Booker has more.

  • Christopher Booker:

    There is a strange, yet seemingly natural symmetry in Yayoi Kusama's takeover of the New York Botanical Garden. It may be wrapped around the trees, sitting in the fountains or nestled between tropical plants. But against the backdrop of the annual spring explosion of flowers and leaves the work seems nowhere near out of place. The shapes and colors of the Bronx garden provides a natural runway for the unmistakable works of one of the world's most famous living artists. But at 92, Kusama seldom travels – so bringing her work to the world has, in recent years fallen on curator Mika Yoshitake.

  • Mika Yoshitake:

    There's a very visceral connection to nature that you'll see in her forms. It almost feels Kinetic. The buds are about to bloom and there's this threshold between the botanical and the cosmic world.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Originally scheduled to open last spring, Kusama: Cosmic Nature spans over 70 years of her work from this 1945 sketch to 2020's Dancing Pumpkin.

  • Christopher Booker:

    So when you're looking at this space. What are you thinking? What are you looking to understand or to figure out?

  • Mika Yoshitake:

    Well, with Kusama's work, the interaction with the sun, the glass, the sky and the reflective nature of some of her works is very key. The Botanical Gardens really did determine which kind of pieces we would select. So like the ascension of polka dots on trees. I think what we discover is how Kusama's work really enhances, the botanical landscape. So there is a dialog between the two. Her work is not blending in with the natural environment. It's really on its own. It holds its own.

  • Christopher Booker:

    For Kusama, this dialogue between the botanical and ethereal started early growing up, her family ran a nursery business in Matsumoto, Japan.

  • Christopher Booker:

    You met and started working on this project before the coronavirus. Did you find yourself, or did the gallery find itself, second-guessing what work to include, especially if we're talking about relationships with nature and our existence?

  • Mika Yoshitake:

    So the pandemic forced a lot of changes, especially in this building, in the way that the crowd would flow. But, you know, I think the pandemic has really been eye-opening in terms of just more philosophically, we're not self-contained bodies. We coexist with the natural environment. And I think that the work that Kusama provides reminds us of that vulnerability and the coexistence of nature, human nature and cosmic nature.

  • Christopher Booker:

    Where does this show fit into her long story? Is this a culmination of a life's work? Is this just another show within a life's work?

  • Mika Yoshitake:

    It's the first comprehensive examination of her engagement with nature — that calm, contemplative walk in between is as important as the work itself.

  • Christopher Booker:

    "Kusama: Cosmic Nature" will be on display until October 31st.

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