Kusama’s Pumpkins were the focus of the artist’s exhibition at the Japanese pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1993 and contain two of the artist’s most iconic motifs—her hallucinogenic dots and lattice work, and the voluptuous pumpkin. The intense black and yellow of her color palette contrast with one another in order 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, when combined with the curvaceous form of the pumpkin, allows for an intriguing juxtaposition between the geometric forms.
Ever since her childhood, Kusama has suffered from a series of hallucinogenic 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 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, crafting these patterns becomes a method of rejuvenation and self-healing.
The yellow and black color palette of Pumpkin also 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. Tatehata, and U. Kultermann, Yayoi Kusamai, London, 2001, p. 103). The optical illusion that Pumpkin produces is a tribute to the artist’s attention to detail; each area is executed with meticulousness and dedication. The sculpture 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 others… We must forget ourselves with polka dots. We must lose ourselves in the ever-advancing stream of eternity.” (Y. Kusama, quoted in L. Hoptman, A. Tatehata, 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 Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, London 2011, p.76).