A vital part of New York’s avant-garde art scene from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, Yayoi Kusama developed a distinctive style utilizing approaches associated with Abstract Expressionism, Minimalism, Pop art, Feminist art, and Institutional Critique—but she always defined herself in her own terms. “I am an obsessional artist,” she once said. “People may call me otherwise, but…I consider myself a heretic of the art world.”1

Kusama was born in 1929 into a well-off but dysfunctional family in Nagano, Japan. Largely shielded from the horrors of World War II, she was, as she has claimed, nevertheless scarred by her mother’s cruelty, her father’s infidelities, and her family’s discouragement of her interest in art making. She started painting at the age of 10 when she began experiencing the visual and aural hallucinations that would plague her, while also fueling her creativity, for the rest of her life. She has maintained that her “artwork is an expression of my life, particularly of my mental disease.”2

After a stint studying traditional Japanese painting in Kyoto, Kusama left school and moved to New York in 1958. There she felt she could pursue her art unfettered—and make waves. “When I arrived in New York, action painting was the rage…” she reflected. “I wanted to be completely detached from that and start a new art movement.”3 She began by making large-scale monochromatic paintings, for which she quickly gained critical attention. By the 1960s, the prolific artist was producing paintings, drawings, sculpture, Happenings, installation, fashion, and film. In 1969, she founded Kusama Enterprises, a commercial outlet selling clothing, bags, and even cars. These products feature her singular aesthetic, characterized by her liberal use of polka dots and dense, repeating patterns to create a sense of infinity.

In 1973, Kusama returned to Japan. Two years later, seeking treatment for her obsessive-compulsive neurosis, she entered the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill, where she lives and works to this day. She continues to produce paintings and sculpture, and, in the 1980s, added poetry and fiction to her range of creative pursuits.

Introduction by Karen Kedmey, independent art historian and writer, 2017

  1. Grady T. Turner, "Yayoi Kusama." BOMB 66, Winter 1999, http://bombmagazine.org/article/2192/yayoi-kusama. 

  2. Grady T. Turner, "Yayoi Kusama." BOMB 66, Winter 1999, http://bombmagazine.org/article/2192/yayoi-kusama. 

  3. Grady T. Turner, "Yayoi Kusama." BOMB 66, Winter 1999, http://bombmagazine.org/article/2192/yayoi-kusama. 

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Introduction
Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生 or 弥生, Kusama Yayoi, born March 22, 1929) is a Japanese artist and writer. Throughout her career she has worked in a wide variety of media, including painting, collage, soft sculpture, performance art, and environmental installations, most of which exhibit her thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition, and pattern. A precursor of the pop art, minimalist and feminist art movements, Kusama influenced, and exhibited alongside her contemporaries such as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and George Segal. In 1957, she moved to the United States, settling in New York City, where she produced a series of paintings influenced by abstract expressionism. Switching to sculpture and installation as her primary media, Kusama became a fixture of the New York avant-garde during the early 1960s when she became associated with the pop-art movement. Embracing the rise of the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, Kusama came to public attention when she organized a series of happenings in which naked participants were painted with brightly colored polka dots. Although largely forgotten after departing the New York art scene in the early 1970s, Kusama is now 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 some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art, and abstract expressionism, and is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. Kusama is also a published novelist and poet, and has created notable work in film, and fashion design. Major retrospectives of her work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art (in 1998), the Whitney Museum and the Tate Modern (in 2012), and the Hirshhorn Museum (2017). In 2006, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women's Caucus for Art. In 2008, Christie's New York sold a work by her for $5.1 million, at the time the record price paid for a work by a living female artist. In 2015, the website Artsy named Kusama one of the Top 10 Living Artists of the year.
Wikidata
Q231121
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Introduction
Japanese installation artist.
Nationalities
Japanese, undetermined
Gender
Female
Roles
Artist, Sculptor, Painter, Performance artist, Installation artist
Names
Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Nusama, 草間弥生, 草間彌生
ULAN
500122518
Information from Getty’s Union List of Artist Names ® (ULAN), made available under the ODC Attribution License