September 1, 2016

Yayoi Kusama Affixes 1200 Vinyl Polka Dots to Philip Johnson’s Glass House

All photography by Matthew Placek.

The same year that a ten-year-old Yayoi Kusama began incorporating polka dots into her drawings, Philip Johnson decided to study architecture at Harvard University. Years later, their visions have converged in a site-specific installation by Kusama at Johnson’s 1949 Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut. For Dots Obsession—Alive, Seeking for Eternal Hope, the celebrated Japanese artist has affixed red vinyl polka dots to the walls and doors of the seminal residence. The 1200 polka dots, which vary in size from about five to ten inches, dramatically alter the house’s views and cast circular shadows on the interior.

Two other works by Kusama are also currently on view on the property’s 49 acres, both visible from inside the Glass House. To the East, an enormous steel sculpture, PUMPKIN, holds court on the hillside meadow. In the opposite direction, 1,300 mirrored spheres float on the pond to form Narcissus Garden.

The architect, through donating the residence to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and being a life-long supporter of the arts, made this posthumous collaboration possible. “Our focus is preservation, but the Glass House has a rich history of arts patronage because of Philip Johnson,” Glass House curator Irene Shum says. Indeed, a 1962 work by Kusama was part of his art collection.

For her part, Kusama expressed her appreciation of Johnson with a poem:

The dotted glass house brings eternal love and hope.
Before the Glass House, those who see it promise their eternal prayers for peace and
Glass House, our everything.
With feelings of life and death, the house that I love encourages life.
Glass House forever.
—Yayoi Kusama, June 13, 2016.

Yayoi Kusama’s Dots Obsession—Alive, Seeking for Eternal Hope will be on view at the Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut until September 26, 2016.

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