In 1963, when Kusama took nearly 100 airmail labels and affixed them to a sheet of paper in a precisely repeating pattern, Pop art was gaining traction. “I was in the vanguard of Pop Art, and regarded as a Pop artist by the people around me,” she has claimed. Her use of mass-produced, utilitarian consumer items to create Airmail No. 2 Accumulation aligned with the Pop artists’ interest in directly engaging with the world around them by incorporating the stuff of everyday life into their art. This approach violated one of the central tenets of the Abstract Expressionists, who sought to purify painting of all references to the world outside of the canvas. Kusama’s stacked airmail stamps, in their vivid American flag colors of red, white, and blue, coalesce into a vibrating pattern that also reflects her interest in the perceptual illusions of Op art.
Additional text from In The Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting online course, Coursera, 2017