The Southwest Business Improvement District (SWBID) has extended the innovative work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama from the inside of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden to the streets of Southwest DC. Starting Tuesday, Feb. 21, Kusama’s signature dot pattern can be found blanketing the walls and sidewalks surrounding the L’Enfant Metro Station at 7th and Maryland Ave. SW, the jersey barriers that line the 7th Street SW perimeter of the Wilbur Wright Building, and outside the Hirshhorn museum itself. This outdoor display coincides with the Hirshhorn’s newest exhibition “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” opening Feb. 23, and is the first in a series of public art programming planned by the SWBID as part of their new artSW initiative.
“Bringing public art to this area of the District has been a priority of ours since we launched the SWBID two years ago,” said SWBID board chairman Geoffrey Griffis. “This installation is a revolutionary launch for our artSW initiative to enliven the parks, streets, and public places throughout Southwest DC.”
“When we heard that the Hirshhorn was bringing Kusama’s work to Washington, we knew that we wanted to bring her work to life for the neighborhood surrounding the museum”, says Steve Moore, Executive Director of the SWBID. “Fortunately, the artist and the Hirshhorn shared our enthusiasm.”
For Kusama, polka-dots are a singular, universal motif that symbolizes oneness, the universe, and the void. They are one of her most common visual themes, recurring throughout her more than 65-year career. Working with the SWBID staff, the color, size, and placement of each dot was carefully arranged by Kusama’s studio in Tokyo to create a design called “Dots Obsession.” The dots themselves are made of a vinyl adhesive by a local a fabricator under the SWBID’s direction.
Spearheaded by the SWBID, this project was made possible through close cooperation between the Hirshhorn and Kusama’s studio, also in addition to Boston Properties, the General Services Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.
“It’s not every day that something as cool as this is happening in your own backyard. When we heard about the Hirshhorn’s plans, we had to pursue this.” Moore continued. “It worked out better than we could have hoped.”
Kusama was born in Matsumoto, Nagano, in 1929. Today she continues to produce paintings at her studio in Tokyo. She studied traditional Nihonga (Japanese-style) painting in Kyoto and moved to New York City in 1958. There she was active in avant-garde circles during the formative years of pop art and minimalism, exhibiting her work alongside such artists as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and Allan Kaprow, figures who have cited Kusama as influential to the development of assemblage, environmental art and performative practices.
“Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” is on view through May 14. The SWBID Installation on 7th Street SW will be up through May 1.