Mention Yayoi Kusama and among the first things to spring to mind are pumpkins, spots, the colour orange and infinity mirror installations. Collage forms a lesser-known niche of the Japanese artist’s oeuvre, but she produced many over the course of the 1980s and 90s, and thanks to Omer Tiroche Gallery, a selection of pieces from 1980 and 81 will be shown as part of New York’s upcoming Armory Show (and in conjunction with a London exhibition of the same gallery, focusing on Kusama’s small-scale pumpkin paintings). Featuring photographs of the natural world – birds, insects, leaves and trees – framed with Kusama’s signature graphic, line-based style, the collages form cell-like shapes, resembling a cross-section of some foreign organism, a window into a realm which exists in both art and science.
The series was created in homage to avant-garde artist Joseph Cornell, with whom Kusama was extremely close in the years leading up to his death. The two artists were in regular contact, with Cornell often sending Kusama personalised collages; his experimental pieces incorporated nature in a similar way to these later examples she made. Kusama’s nature collages were produced a few years after she checked herself into a Japanese mental health hospital (where she has been living since 1977) and are seen to address themes of freedom and entrapment in their execution. For an artist whose work is so prolific and instantly recognisable, to come across this quieter corner of Kusama’s introspective work is an exceptional treat.