Overall: 34 5/16 × 38 15/16 × 36 5/16in. (87.2 × 98.9 × 92.2 cm)
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase
Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate
Accumulation is a sculpture made by the artist Yayoi Kusama around 1963, and is part of an ongoing series of sculptures by the same name that the artist began in the early 1960s. The armature of this particular sculpture is a wooden armchair, measuring about 3 feet high by 3 feet wide by 3 feet deep. This style of armchair has curved legs in the front, which make it look a bit more elegant and ornate. All over the surface of the chair–on the seat, sides, and back–Kusama has affixed a series of small to medium sized phallic-shaped protrusions. Indeed, Kusama has termed these puffy projections: "phalluses", an identification that, when combined with a domestic object like an armchair, carries both sexualized and gendered stereotypes.
For this particular Accumulation, the protrusions range in size from as small as a fingerling potato to as large as a loaf of bread. These extensions appear almost pillowy and soft, and in fact were produced by the artist individually sewing and stuffing each one, before attaching it to the surface of the chair. In her autobiography, first published in 2002, Kusama noted that producing these phallic forms en masse, almost to the point of the absurd, functioned as an act of "self-therapy", which has helped the artist confront her self-described fear and "disgust of sex". Indeed, there seem to be hundreds of these protrusions that densely populate the entire surface of the armchair, as if they were growing from its surface. These projections become less dense as you move from the top to the bottom of the chair, with only a scattered few on the chair base and none on the legs. Given the clean-curving lines of the chair legs and the empty space beneath it, the sculpture almost seems to hover, looking like some biomorphic form–like coral or stalagmites–emerging from the earth.
This impression is only furthered by the monochromatic white paint the covers the entire surface of the sculpture, both the visible parts of the armchair and the phallic-like protrusions that cover it. The paint also seems to add a certain stiffness to the protrusions themselves, as though they were fixed in space. The overall white color also unifies the entire surface of the sculpture, pointing to Kusama’s own connection to and dialogue with Minimalism, an artistic movement that was prevalent at this time, predominately in the U.S. In addition, the marriage between painting and sculpture in this work points to the artist’s own multimedia practice, which spans painting, sculpture, installation, performance, and beyond.