Medium: Avant-Garde Sculptor, Painter, and Novelist
“A polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement…Polka dots are a way to infinity.”
Yayoi Kusama is an acclaimed contemporary artist who has worked in a variety of media such as painting, collage, sculpture, performance art, and environmental installations. Her thematic interests are in psychedelic colors, repetition and pattern. She is acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan and an important voice of the avant-garde.
- Kusama’s work is based in conceptual art and shows attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art and abstract expressionism. Her work is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content.
- Kusama was a fixture of the New York avant-garde and had her works exhibited alongside the likes of Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg and George Segal during the early 60’s where she became associated with the pop art movement.
- Polka dots are a trademark of her work. The vast fields of polka dots or “infinity nets” were taken directly from her hallucinations.
- Kusama was greatly involved in the New York art scene and staged many “happenings” in which she would gather people in conspicuous spots like Central Park and would often involve nudity to protest the Vietnam war.
- She has complex installations of mirror/infinity rooms. These are purpose-built rooms lined with mirrors that often contains water and flickering lights. The viewer stands inside a small platform and light is repeatedly reflected off of the mirrors to create the illusion of a never-ending space. These rooms suggest a pattern of life and death.
- In 1977 Kusama checked herself into the Seika Hospital for the Mentally Ill where she eventually took up permanent residence and is where she continues to reside.
- 1957-Came to the United States and showed large paintings, soft sculptures and environmental sculptures using mirrors and electric lights
- Late 1960s-Staged many happenings such as body painting festivals, fashion shows, and anti-war demonstrations
- 1968-The Film “Kusama’s Self-Obliteration” which Kusama produced and starred in won various awards.
- 1973-Returned to Japan where she continued to produce art but she also issued a number of novels and anthologies, one of which won a literary award.
- 1986-Held solo exhibitions at the Musee Municipal, Dole, and the Musee des Beaus Arts de Calais
- 1994-Began to create open-air sculptures.
- 1996-Began to show works mainly at galleries in New York
- 1998-1999-A major retrospective of Kusama’s work was shown first at LACMA and traveled around the world
- 2004-Her solo exhibition “Kusamatrix” drew a total of 520,000 people.
- 2006-Received a Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award.
- 2008-Her Documentary film “Yayoi Kusama, I adore myself” released in Japan and screened at international film festivals and museums.
- 2015-Artsy named Kusama one of the Top Living Artists of 2015.
Where can I see her works?
- The Broad, Los Angeles “Infinity Mirrored Room” Permanent collection
- The Museum of Modern Art, New York “From the Collection: 1960-1969” March 26, 2016-March 12, 2017
- The Glass House, New Canaan, Connecticut “Narcissus Garden” May 1-November 30, 2016
- Long Museum, Shanghai “She: International Women Artists Exhibition” July 23-October 30, 2016
- Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston “First Light: A Decade of Collecting at the ICA” August 17, 2016-January 16, 2017
- Sharjah Art Foundation, United Arab Emirates “Dots Obsession” October 1, 2016-January 9, 2017
- Helsinki Art Museum “In Infinity” October 7, 2016-January 22, 2017
- Upcoming traveling exhibition: Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, DC “Infinity Mirrors” February 23-May 14, 2017