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Yayoi Kusama, Bill Traylor, Talk Art, and Carlota Guerrero
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Yayoi Kusama, Bill Traylor, Talk Art, and Carlota Guerrero

This edition of Culture Cue features a documentary about American artist Bill Traylor, a retrospective on Yayoi Kusama in Berlin, a guide on contemporary art, and the photo book of celebrated Spanish artist Carlota Guerrero.

Yayoi Kusama Retrospective: A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe

“My art originates from hallucinations only I can see,” Yayoi Kusama once said in an interview. “I translate the hallucinations and obsessional images that plague me into sculptures and paintings. All my works in pastels are the products of obsessional neurosis.” The Japanese artist who has been struggling with mental health issues throughout her life today resides in a hospital where “I live a peaceful life creating artwork.” Close to it she has set up a big studio and hired assistants to continue creating. Tate Gallery curator Frances Morris said Kusama could “manage her madness” and use her trauma to harness experiences that would drive other people insane to enormous productive ends.” In Berlin, the Gropius Bau now dedicates a retrospective to this extraordinary artist spanning 70 years of work displayed on 3000 square meters. Included, among others, are her “Infinity Net” paintings, immersive environments, and the latest version of the iconic Infinity Mirror Room. The retrospective will focus on tracing the development of Kusama’s creative output and exploring her lesser-known artistic activity in Germany and Europe.

Chasing Ghosts: The Life of Bill Traylor 

Chasing Ghosts is a documentary about the life of painter Bill Traylor, referred to as “one of America’s greatest self-taught artists.” Born enslaved on a cotton plantation in Alabama in 1853, he witnessed a history of social change and unrest defined by Jim Crow laws, the Great Migration, and the heights of lynching in America. It’s only in the last years of his life, at the age of 86, that he started pouring his experiences into paintings and drawings. His personal and moving pieces address racism and violence, using allegory and abstraction. Characteristic is the use of blue that is a recurring element in his practice. What caused Traylor’s outburst of creativity in his final years before his death in 1949 remains a mystery. The documentary by director Jeffrey Wolf and producer Sam Pollard traces his story based on a few photographs, opinions from art world professionals, and Traylor’s descendants. Pollard recalled to The Guardian: “In America, there’s been an awakening about the deaths of black men and women at the hands of the police and the notion that this country’s history of racism is deeply embedded,” he said. “With Chasing Ghosts, Jeff has created a film speaking to the past that is present.” 

Talk Art: Everything You Wanted to Know About Contemporary Art but Were Afraid to Ask

In 2018 actor and collector Russell Tovey and gallerist Robert Diament started the popular podcast Talk Art. Since then the duo’s mission is to share their enthusiasm for contemporary art in an approachable way. “All we wanted to do was make art accessible, non-academic, non-elitist, gossipy, and fun,” Tovey says. On May 6, Octopus will release the book of the same name as an “accessible celebration of contemporary art, and a guidebook to navigating and engaging with the art world.” It includes a selection of insights from former interviews with Tracey Emin, Jordan Casteel, Jerry Saltz, Elton John, Grayson Perry, Ian McKellen, David Shrigley, Toyin Ojih Odutola, and many more. 

Carlota Guerrero: Tengo un Dragón Dentro del Corazón

Carlota Guerrero made her first foray into photography with an analog camera given to her by a friend. Since then, the Spanish artist follows her creative intuition and curiosity, exploring the themes of femininity, nature, and human connections. Her distinctive style has caught the attention of brands and artists such as Rosalia, Solange, Rupi Kaur, Givenchy, or Dior. Guerrero captured the essence of her early photographic practice in the book “Tengo un Dragón Dentro del Corazón” with images from a performance piece at Art Basel, a documentary project about the transgender community in Cuba, and a collaboration with poet Rupi Kaur. 

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