Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Yayoi Kusama
by Krysia Sikora 

Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist and writer who is known for her unorthadox style that often exhibit repeating patterns and psychodelic imagry.  Kusama works with a variety of mediums including painting, printing, sculpture, and both performance and instilation art, often evoking themes of sexual anxiety, feminism, obsession, destruction, and deep self reflection throughout her work.  Today Kusama acknowledged as one of the most influential living artists to come out of Japan and an important voice for the avend-garde movement.  

Kusama was born March 22, 1929 in Matsumoto City Japan and began painting at around the age of ten.  According to Kusama, she turned to painting as a means to escape childhood neglect and her early experiences with hallucinations, many of which included visualizing fields of polka-dots, a theme that she famously for depicts in much of her work.  

At nineteen, she left home for Kyoto, where she studied the traditional Japanese style of painting known as Nihonga, and also began experimenting with abstraction.  However it was not until she arrived in the United States in 1957, that her career took off. Inspired by a letter she received from Georgia O'Keefe, Kusama moved to New York to persue a career as an artist.   

From 1958 to 1973, Kusama honed in on her signature polka dot and net motifs, developed soft sculpture, and created installation and performance based works around the city. 

Dots Obsession, 2013

During her time in New York Kusama also became a very controversial avend-garde figure.  She staged provocative performances throughout New York, which often included featuring public nudity, as a form of anti-war activism.  


Anatomic Explosion, 1968

For example, at the height of the Vietnam War, Kusama staged the Anatomic Explosion, which featured nude models dancing opposite the New York Stock Exchange.  Her performance was prefaced by press statement, ‘The money made with this stock is enabling the war to continue. We protest this cruel, greedy instrument of the war establishment.’

Additionally during her time in New York, Kusama first started using mirrors and reflections in her art, and later developed her famous Infinity Mirror Room, and exhibition that is featured in many museums today.  In these complex instilations, the room is lined with mirrors, and numerous lights and colored balls hang at various hieghts above the viewer.  The arrangement of the mirrors and the instillation's lights creates the illusion of a never ending space and celestial environment.  

Infitity Mirrored Room, Broad Museum in Los Angeles

 All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins, 2016

After her time in New York, Kusama moved back to Japan to continue her work featuring her iconic dots, mirrored rooms, and expressive patterns.  She has been honored with the Ordres des Arts et Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture, as well as the Praemium Imperiale prize from the Japanese Art Association.  

I was first exposed to Yayoi Kusama's work, when I went to her Infinity Mirror Room the Broad Museum in Los Angeles. I have always been drawn to more modern art, however I love how Kusama makes most of her work interactive, therefore the viewer actually moves throughout her scuptures and in a sense becomes a part of it.  I also was especially intrigued by her use of mirrors and reflections in a lot of her work.  For example in both her Infitity Mirror Room and All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins the mirror instilation effect gives you the feeling that you are in a cosmic galaxy, which is eternal.  Additionally as I did more research on Kusama I really enjoyed learning about her performance art pieces that were a response to the Vietnam War, because it showed that she used her art to make a statement, although it was controversial. 


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