Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors,” Installation has garnered global recognition since it’s debut and now resides at The High Museum in Atlanta until February 2019. The popular exhibition includes six themed rooms, sculptures, paintings, works on paper and additional creations that span across Kusama’s life from the early 1950s to present day.
NDLYSS had the pleasure of attending and intimate discussion with curator, Mika Yoshitake, on Thursday as she dissected the evolution and trajectory of Yayoi Kusama’s immersive pieces from her early surrealist paintings to mesmerizing sculptures to kaleidoscope mirror-filled installations over the course of six decades.
Born in 1929 to a well-established family who owned a plant nursery business, Kusama’s childhood was one filled with flower fields and hallucinations obliterated by dots eventually pieced together in her artistic style. Yoshitake notes that the usage of dots birthed the enactment of a self-styled notion to radically connect individuals; a process that correlates with the understanding of the body operating at the edge of awareness.
“The dot replicated endlessly may have been a way to fill this haunting fear, a signifier that allowed her to confront the void once uncontrollable fate and whirlpool of death and obliterated through a compulsive process of repetition,” she said. This can be seen at The Obliteration Room at the High, an interactive room that allows tastemakers to place a colored dot in blank white space, providing an immersive experience as the viewer can feel the annihilation in a physical form.
Her illusions and torments have since evolved including her fear of intimacy which is a recurrent theme in her works: phallic shaped objects sprouting from various objects covered in spots. Kusama’s pieces almost always contain prolific motifs such as dots, pumpkins, phallic objects and lights. The repetitive motion of these motifs produce a cathartic experience.
Alexandra Munroe, Kusama’s curator of her exhibition at the Guggenheim, noted: “Kusama’s work elicited a psychedelic vision of the self caught in a labyrinth of infinity simulating a space between consciousness and the unconscious.” This can be seen at the “Infinity Mirror” room at The High, a room features over 200 bright bulbs suspended from the ceiling to create a whimsical adventure.
The artist has produced 20 distinct mirror rooms since 1965. With each new room, Kusama has tightened the suspension of time and space increasingly emphasizing the participatory experience of the public and the notion of the mirror rooms as bodily structures. Her intricate use of shifting from macrocosm to microcosm in her works can be followed through her early paintings to her sculptures to her dematerialized mirror installations. Her paradoxical pursuit of self obliteration is immersed through each of her exhibitions to evoke a sense of freedom from self but also a connectedness through mutual obligation.
Yoshitake explains: “The darkened mirror environments have produced various interpretation. Some critics describe them as producing a disturbing effect in which the viewer’s body virtually disintegrates into receding reflections that surround him or her. Others see the rooms as a utopian challenge that addresses multiple modes of being beyond private individualist experience that remains fundamental to communal living. Both of these positions agree that Kusama’s works derive from unsettling experiences that have evolved to more ethereal harmonial environments.” Nonetheless, Kusama’s pieces accomplishes brilliant art in both a microscopic and cosmological scale.
Kusama, almost 90, resides in Japan where she continues to create installations. Yoshitake notes with great respect and pride: “After 90 years of searching for stardom and fame, this woman is finally getting her just due.”
For more info on Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit, click here.
BBC Documentary ‘A Fresh Guide to Florence with Fab 5 Freddy’ headed US this Fall
Hip-hop pioneer Fred Brathwaite AKA Fab 5 Freddy has announced that his acclaimed BBC documentary — A Fresh Guide To Florence With Fab 5 Freddy, which debuted in the UK this past weekend — will be coming to the US this fall. The documentary follows Fab 5 Freddy as he embarks on a quest to uncover the hidden black figures of Italian Renaissance art.
“Not only were Renaissance artists making art that defined high aesthetic ideals but they were also groundbreaking in showing an ethnically diverse, racially mixed Italy in the 15th and 16th century. You just have to look at the art,” he said in a statement.”
The documentary centers the hip hop legend and art lover as he examines the 15th and 16th century Italian Renaissance art in 15th-century style – on horseback. Amidst superstar artists such as Michelangelo and powerful patrons such as the Medicis, Fab discovers ground-breaking images of a multi-racial and multi-ethnic society that have slipped through the cracks of art history. In a 5-star review, The Financial Times says Fab “visits Florence to insouciantly blow the dust off art history” and The Guardian says that he is “on terrific form.”
A Fresh Guide is just another chapter in the incredible year for Fab 5 Freddy. He released the highly praised 4/20 Netflix documentary Grass Is Greener, which traces the history of cannabis in America and its relationship to people of color. The film takes an unparalleled look at the history of cannabis usage in America through the lens of popular forms of music — jazz, reggae, and hip hop — while also examining the racial disparities and injustices within that world. The film has a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and just was named to the UK-based Grierson Awards shortlist for Best Single Documentary (International).
A Fresh Guide To Florence With Fab 5 Freddy will come to US homes this fall, date and other details to be announced later this year.
AfroFuture Fest changes discriminatory pricing structure after receiving alleged “threats and harassment”
The Afrofuture Festival scheduled for Aug. 3 at Feedom Freedom grounds in Detroit was recently slammed for its racial pricing structure for non-people of color. Screenshots surfaced of tickets being sold for $40 white people, while tickets were only $20 for POC’s.
Amid the backlash, the festival has altered its pricing, adjusting the amounts to $20 across the board, according to The New York Times.
As of this posting, the fest’s Eventbrite page reads:
“WHY DO WE HAVE POC(PEOPLE OF COLOR) AND NONPOC(WHITE PEOPLE) TICKETS? I’M GLAD YOU ASKED!
EQUALITY MEANS TREATING EVERYONE THE SAME
EQUITY IS INSURING EVERYONE HAS WHAT THEY NEED TO BE SUCCESSFUL
OUR TICKET STRUCTURE WAS BUILT TO INSURE THAT THE MOST MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES (PEOPLE OF COLOR) ARE PROVIDED WITH AN EQUITABLE CHANCE AT ENJOYING EVENTS IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITY (BLACK DETROIT).
AFFORDING JOY AND PLEASURE IS UNFORTUNATELY STILL A PRIVILEGE IN OUR SOCIETY FOR POC AND WE BELIEVE EVERYONE SHOULD HAVE ACCESS TO RECEIVING SUCH.
WE’VE SEEN TOO MANY TIMES ORGASMIC EVENTS HAPPENING IN DETROIT AND OTHER POC POPULATED CITIES AND WHAT CONSISTENTLY HAPPENS IS PEOPLE OUTSIDE OF THE COMMUNITY BENEFITING MOST FROM AFFORDABLE TICKET PRICES BECAUSE OF THEIR PROXIMITY TO WEALTH.
THIS CYCLE DISPROPORTIONATELY DISPLACES BLACK AND BROWN PEOPLE FROM ENJOYING ENTERTAINMENT IN THEIR OWN COMMUNITIES.
AS AN AFROFUTURIST YOUTH LEAD INITIATIVE THE VOICES OF OUR YOUTH INFORM OUR RESISTANCE.
HERE’S WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY
‘IF YOU DON’T SEE MY BLACKNESS, YOU DON’T SEE ME. PERIODT!’”
Eventbrite has since then threatened to pull the festival from their site. “Our mission is to bring the world together through live experiences,” reps said in a statement to The Independent. “We strive to provide a platform that enables people to gather for their chosen purpose, and that reflects diverse viewpoints, so long as they don’t violate our terms.”
The statement continued: “We do not permit events that require attendees to pay different prices based on their protected characteristics such as race or ethnicity.
“In this case, we have notified the creator of the event about this violation and requested that they alter their event accordingly,” the statement concluded. “We have offered them the opportunity to do this on their own accord; should they not wish to comply we will unpublish the event completely from our site.”
Afrofuture Youth founder and co-director Adrienne Ayers said that due to “threats and harassment” after “right-wing websites highlighted the pricing,” she decided to change the payment structure, saying, “For safety, not anything else but that, the new ticket structure will be a standard set price across the board of $20. However, there will be a suggested donation for non-people of color.”
Last week, performer Tiny Jag, who identified to NYT as biracial, decided to cancel her performance at the festival due to the pricing policy.
Detroit-based civil rights lawyer Tiffany Ellis also told NYT that while private organizations are more able to chose how they do business, the “discriminatory” pricing structure could have resulted in lawsuits, saying, “We have constitutional rights as an individual, and the 14th Amendment provides that we cannot be discriminated against because all people are created equal. When it’s a private actor, those protections are different.”
Cori Maass: The Human Experience through the Eye of a Minimalist
How often do we pay attention to the human experience? An aspect of life so utterly important yet overlooked time and time again. But there are a rare few who get the picture, much like American artist, Cori Maass.
The LA-based illustrator uses her canvas to explore and depict the emotions and interconnectivity of people. Noting she’s deeply inspired by “lessons the Earth holds that mirror our internal experiences,” her minimalist style portrays the messages through intricate lines, shapes, and text.
Maass believes art is destined to intersect with life, which she conveys through murals, printed works, brand collaborations, fashion, and tattoos.
Does anyone of the work here engage with any particular social issues?
I like to focus on social issues first as human issues, both interpersonal and intrapersonal. I think sometimes it is easier to talk about issues from the standpoint of universal human experiences (like empathy, or shame, or sadness) rather than using the language of “politics”, where words can sometimes lose their meaning. Not that political conversation isn’t important, it is easier for me, however, to convey my feelings from a different place. I wrote a poem [attached] after the Cavanaugh trials brought up conversations surrounding the abuse that many women have experienced. My goal was to cut out the chatter and try to communicate from a place of power and identity for women.
Do you think art has the power to affect any kind of social change?
Definitely. Art is a reflection of what is going on at the time but also creates a narrative that affects society. Art shapes the social conversation whether that be through music, design, or any other medium.
With social media, artists are able to spread social change and images that give us something to visualize a better future rather than just talking about it.
Which themes and subjects do you like to illustrate and explore?
I am very interested in exploring the human experience. The human experience includes complex emotions, duality, moral dilemmas, and relationships. I like to explore visual (or written) metaphors to provide meaning for what I am experiencing.
Are you driven by creative interests or commercial interests?
My biggest interest is how art intersects and affects life. I like my art to be purposeful and engaging with people so that can lend itself to commercial interests because it allows people to be part of the story. However, I became an artist full time because I was frustrated by just creating things for the purpose of selling.
At the end of the day, I am fulfilled when I create from a pure place of honesty and it connects with someone else.
Do you find that this notion of place has a very strong impact on your work?
I think place definitely strongly impacts me personally. That will naturally translate to my work! I have to go to new places or different places to be able to stay centered within myself and continue to expand my perspective. Places are mostly made special to me by the people in them and the different parts of myself that come out when I am in those settings. Each place I have lived or traveled has taught me both about other people and about myself. I think of places as mirrors that show you pieces who you are.
Quite a lot of your work originates from human experience and the emotions and connections, please expand.
The best art advice I was ever given was in a photo class, where the instructor was talking about developing your photographic eye. He explained that good photos originate with seeing. This idea is something that I use for art and life as a whole now. I begin with seeing. Taking an honest look inside myself and taking the role of an observer in the world around me. I look for nuances and details and how they connect to form a bigger picture. Life as a human is messy and complex, much like nature.
Art is a way for me to process and wade through it all and reflect on the fact that it is ultimately beautiful.
Where do you create most of your pieces?
I work in coffee shops a lot!! The base of many of my pieces is digital or on paper so I can take my art and work wherever I go. These pieces then get translated into murals, apparel, prints, tattoos, and anything really. I am very interested in how art intersects life and adds to the fabric of our stories.
You talk about the “aesthetics of minimalism”. What does this mean and why is it important to you?
Minimalism is knowing how much is too much or too little; it’s a fine balance. I think it is important to me because I think it gives me the ability to say a lot simply while leaving space for someone else’s interpretation. This allows me to be honest and give people the opportunity to connect within their own life’s story.
In the minimalist space, I think it is important to apply new ideas to visual themes that may have been done, and in that, to add your personal perspective.
For example, artists have drawn faces minimally for years, but I ask myself to create from a perspective that is unique or (at least) honest.
Tell me about your current series.
Currently, I am exploring moral and emotional concepts through shapes and abstract lines. I hope to compile them into a book by the end of the year! The concepts I have been exploring so far are grief (the concept of death vs. rebirth, and acceptance of death), compartmentalization of emotions/actions, shame, and self-preservation. (I promise I am fun at parties hahaha).
What is one of the most challenging works you have made recently?
Lately, just in general, it has been a struggle to present myself honestly without feeling too seen. It is a hard balance of being vulnerable through art but allowing myself time to process when I know others are seeing my work. I always appreciate it though because I am creating through the confusion, I just sometimes get overwhelmed when I know I am being honest but it feels scary.
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