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 a facility 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.


The research for this text was supported by a generous grant from The Modern Women's Fund.

Wikipedia entry
Introduction
Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生, Kusama Yayoi, born 22 March 1929) is a Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation, but is also active in painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction, and other arts. Her 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. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan.Kusama was raised in Matsumoto, and trained at the Kyoto City University of Arts in a traditional Japanese painting style called nihonga. Kusama was inspired, however, by American Abstract impressionism. She moved to New York City in 1958 and was a part of the New York avant-garde scene throughout the 1960s, especially in the pop-art movement. Embracing the rise of the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, she came to public attention when she organized a series of happenings in which naked participants were painted with brightly coloured polka dots. Since the 1970s, Kusama has continued to create art, most notably installations in various museums around the world.Kusama has been open about her mental health. She says that art has become her way to express her mental problems. She reported in the interview she did with Infinity Net "I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieved my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live."
Wikidata
Q231121
Information from Wikipedia, made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License
Getty record
Introduction
Kusama is known for her varied practice that includes painting, sculpture and room-sized installations. She moved to the US 1957, settling in New York City, and produced paintings influenced by abstract expressionism. She was active in New York in the 1960s creating sculpture and installations, and producing happenings.
Nationalities
Japanese, American
Gender
Female
Roles
Artist, Author, Writer, Collagist, Painter, Installation Artist, Performance Artist, Photographer, Sculptor, Video 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

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