Donald Judd was a friend of Kusama’s and an advocate of her early Infinity Net series, writing as an art critic for ARTnews, “Yayoi Kusama is an original painter. The five white, very large paintings [presented at the artist-run Brata Gallery in 1959] are strong, advanced in concept and realized.” The artists lived in the same building on 19th Street in New York in the early 1960s, where Kusama constructed her first sculptural installations at the same time that Judd constructed his. Judd later wrote a letter of support on behalf of Kusama for the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service. In the letter he discusses the exhibition of Infinity Net paintings:
“In October of 1959 Yayoi Kusama exhibited five large paintings which were recognized as exceptional. Sidney Tillim, writing in Arts, predicted that the show would prove the sensation of the season. It did prove to be so and has remained one of the few important shows of the last two years. Tillim’s review and the one in ARTnews by the present writer stand as two of the most laudatory and extensive reviews given to a first one-man show. In quality the idea is grave, dignified, cool, and tough and in method advanced and remarkable. The space is shallow, close to the surface, and, in the case of the five white paintings of the first show, achieved by innumerable small arcs superimposed on a black ground which is muted with a final wash of white.”
The two artists maintained continued correspondence over the next two decades with Judd to visit Kusama while in Japan for an exhibition at Galerie Watari in February of 1978. Judd installed an early ceramic work by Kusama, a gift from the artist, in his library at La Mansana de Chinati/The Block in Marfa, Texas. An exhibition of Kusama’s work at 101 Spring Street was discussed in letters between the artists’ studios in the 1980s, though not realized until now.
Curated by Flavin Judd, the exhibition at 101 Spring Street includes recent and new works from the artist’s ongoing Infinity Net series. The exhibit will be accompanied by a series of public programs that explore Judd’s relationship with his contemporaries in New York from the 1960s through the 1980s.
Yayoi Kusama is made possible with support from David Zwirner, New York and Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore/Shanghai.