‘Artist of the Month’ is back. As I’ve said countless times, I always strive to share artists I find to be particularly distinctive in their output or methods. So, for the first featured artist of 2019, I decided to choose a subject who leaves no expression unexpressed. Here’s a hint: she’s become the bona fide polka dot queen of the contemporary art world. Some of you might have guessed that this month’s artist is no other than Yayoi Kusama, the multifaceted artist who continues to beguile audiences with her psychedelic illusions and impossible spaces.
Kusama was born in Japan and moved to the United States in 1957. As a young woman, before she ever set foot outside of her native Japan, Kusama was already tackling significant questions about life, existence and death. Her unique trademark style and passion for painting propelled her to rail against materialism, capitalism, and the power of money. Yet somewhat ironically, by the twenty-first century, Kusama had become the doyenne of the high-rolling haute couture set. How can we forget the iconic Yayoi Kusama x Louis Vuitton collection of 2012?
During an interview, Yayoi admitted that her sculptures and art pieces originated from acute hallucinations she has been experiencing since the age of 10. According to her, these repeated hallucinations visually placed polka dots on a canvas, objects, and even human flesh. Her work shows a fixation with repetition, virility, and the infinite, which have become the greatest themes of her oeuvre (as well as pumpkins).
After experiencing tremendous success in the USA, Kusama decided to go back to Japan in 1977. Her decision to return to her home country was also due to her ailing mental health. Since the mid-70s Kusama has lived in a psychiatric hospital where she has become a permanent resident in the Seiwa Hospital for the mentally ill. Her workshop is a short distance from the hospital where she works with her assistants. This devotion to her craft despite various illnesses shows that creative expression is innate to Kusama, who often states that she would be nothing without it.
If you would like to experience the polka dotted world of Kusama, try and catch one of her many exhibitions around the world. I was lucky enough to attend the “PUMPKIN FOREVER” exhibition at the Forever Museum of Contemporary Art in Kyoto a few weeks ago. Her works have previously been shown in Los Angeles, Shanghai, and Brisbane, so be on the lookout for where Kusama will be exhibited next.
I’ll leave you with some of Kusama’s most iconic and intriguing works, and I look forward to seeing you next month with a ‘Artist of the Month’ post.
Temi’s Takeaway Quote:
“In front of paint brushes and canvas, my hands react to them and make my work before I think of anything. Then, when the piece is completed, I look at it, and am surprised by the result—always.” – Yayoi Kasuma
Words by Temi Otedola
Original Thumbnail Art by Antonia Weishaupt
Yayoi Kasuma, Infinity Net, 1979
Yayoi Kasuma, Accumulation No. 1., 1962
Yayoi Kasuma, Ready to Blossom in the Morning, 1989
Yayoi Kasuma, All the Eternal Love I have For the Pumpkins, 2016
Yayoi Kasuma, N.Y. 14th Street Street Happening, 1966
Yayoi Kasuma, Repetitive Vision, 1996