Yayoi Kusama's Red Pumpkin contains two of the artist's most iconic motifs-her hallucinogenic dots and lattice work and a voluptuous pumpkin. The intense black and red of her color palette contrast with one another inorder to create a visual experience that resonates directly with the viewer. Here Kusama not only uses her signature all-over dot pattern but also introduces a web of triangle-like lattice work which allows for an intriguing juxtaposition between the geometric forms. Sitting proudly in the center of the composition is the pumpkin which is rendered in black and red, its curvaceous silhouette boldly contrasting with the geometric patterns surrounding it.
Ever since her childhood, Kusama has suffered from a series of hallucino genic events in which she experiences visions of floating dots that appear before her eyes. The episodes have formed the basis of her six decade-long career which began with her iconic Infinity Net paintings and continues across a range of genres and media. In Red Pumpkin, by combining a pattern of fantasy with an object of reality, the normally ubiquitous fruit is filled with a dynamic energy that galvanizes the entire work. The resulting image is very much her own, and for Kusama, painting these patterns becomes a method of rejuvenation and self-healing.
The red and black color palette of Red Pumpkin plays an important role in Kusama's attempts to come to terms with her demons, "You might say that I came under the spell of repetition and aggregation. My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them. They began to cover walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe. I was always standing at the center of the obsession, over the passionate accretion and repetition inside me." (Y. Kusama, quoted in L. Hoptman, A. T atehata, and U. Kultermann, Yayoi Kusama, London, 2001, p.103). The optical illusion that Red Pumpkin produces is a tribute to the artist's attention to detail; each area is attended to with meticulousness and dedication. The painting displays a light and lively combination of patterns and is absorbing in its rhythmic quality. Kusama considers the universe advanced from polka dots and that these are, for her, the source of all creativity. "Our earth is only one polka dot among millions of othersWe must forget ourselves with polka dots. We must lose ourselves in the ever-advancing stream of eternity." (Y. Kusama, quoted in L. Hoptman, A. T atehata, and U. Kultermann, Yayoi Kusama, London, 2001, p.103).
Pumpkins became a central theme of the artist's work, and one which is very personal to her. "I was enchanted by their charming and winsome form" she said. "What appealed to me most was the pumpkin's generous unpretentiousness. That, and its solid spiritual base." (Y. Kusama, Infinity Net: The Auto biography of Yayoi Kusama, London 2011, p.76).