Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession, Infinity mirrored Room, 1998. Installation. Les Abattoirs, Tolosa
The “Polka Dot Princess” Yayoi Kusama is one of the most exciting and prolific contemporary artist. She has worked in a wide variety of media such as performance, film-making, painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, fashion, poetry, fiction and happenings and, at the age of 80, she’s still creating and developing her art.
Her work is based in conceptual art; it’s precursory of pop art, minimalism and feminist art movements and shares some characteristics of surrealism, Art Brut and abstract expressionism; infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. Kusama’s art shows her long-term fascination with organic repetitive patterns, vigorous and psychedelic colours, reflection, electric lights, and infinite space. Her vibrant, fascinating, magical work has an almost hallucinatory intensity.
Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession, 2000. Installation
Born in Japan in 1929, she studied Nihonga painting in Kyoto in 1948. Frustrated with this distinctly Japanese style and interested in the European and American avant-garde, Kusama went to the United States in 1957, becoming the epicentre of the New York avant-garde. In 1959 she first exhibited Infinity net, the work that changed her career, and define her signature style: obsessive, repetitive and rhythmic. She started to paint using polka dots and nets pattern during her childhood, after her first experiences of hallucinations and severe obsessive thoughts, and has spread them infinitely across the world, covering walls, floors, canvases, and later, household objects and naked assistants. In 1977 she voluntarily admitted herself to a hospital, where she has spent the rest of her life. From here, she continued to produce artworks in a variety of mediums, as well as launching her literary career.
Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession Day, 2009. Installation. Serpentine Gallery, London
The most interesting and representative element of Kusama’s art is a proliferating circular motif, either a polka dot or, conversely, the negative space seen when a looped mark is applied to a surface. Or the artist “…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, colourful, senseless and unknowing. Polka dots become movement… Polka dots are a way to infinity”. Kusama sees her life as “a dot lost among millions of other dots”. Put on canvases, sculptures and installations, shop mannequins, even on the artist’s body and clothing she has designed, these dots vary in tone and character from strident chromatic contrasts to delicate filigrees of white-on-white.
Dotted pumpkins (which represent for her a kind of alter-ego or self-portrait), whorls, shaped nerves, nets and flower shapes are other obsessive elements present in her works. Kusama’s art can be seen as a sublimation of those obsessions, as a cathartic and life-saving operation.
Yayoi Kusama, Obliteration room. Installation
Some of her most important artworks are: Infinity Net series (started in 1959) realized on infinite canvas of ten meters; the soft sculptures Accumulation (1950), Sex Obsession (1962) and Compulsive Furniture (1964), the installation Narcissus Garden (1966) presented at Venice Biennale, the environmental works Passing Winter (2005) and Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity (2009).
Yayoi Kusama, The moment of Regeneration, 2004
From 1998 to 1999, a major retrospective of Kusama’s works opened at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and travelled to the Museum of Modern Art of New York, to the Walker Art Center and to the Tokyo’s Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2004, her solo exhibition “KUSAMATRIX” started at Mori Museum in Tokyo, totalling 520,000 visitors. In 2005 her artworks were exhibited in The National Museum of Modern Art of Kyoto, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Art Museum of Kumamoto and Matsumoto City Museum of Art. An exhibition of Kusama’a work opened at the Tate Modern in London in 2012 with artworks from Kusama’s entire career.