Episode #7 of the course “Ground-breaking contemporary artists”
Yayoi Kusama is one of the most colorful characters of the 20th-century art world. Enjoying international acclaim as a predecessor of the pop art and feminist art movements, her work exhibits both, while exploring repetition, obsessiveness, peace, and the concept of infinity. Her career spans nearly 60 years, and she has been exhibited alongside Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons, and Claus Oldenberg. Her pieces now sell for some of the highest prices of any living female artist.
Yayoi Kusama was born in Matsumoto, Japan, and studied art in Kyoto before traveling to France and the US. She grew up creating artwork—drawing, painting, and sculpting—and polka dots have featured as a prominent figure in her work since she was 10 years old. After experimenting with watercolors and sculpture, she threw several live art installations of rooms painted with polka dots that earned her international acclaim. She calls her repetitive patterns of polka dots and lines “infinity nets.”
Look Now, See Forever
Infinity Mirrored Room
Kusama is known for her polka dots, pumpkins, and mushrooms that all represent the world as she sees it. She is widely admired for her ability to express herself in multiple media. Kusama has experienced hallucinations and obsessive thoughts since childhood, which are given a visual representation in her work. Polka dots often cover walls, trees, and people’s bodies in her long-running Infinity Nets series. She alternates colors and sizes but insists on the perfection of the circle’s shape and its connection with the mystery of the universe.
Kusama has also continued a series of polka dots on lighted mirrors since the 1960s in an attempt to explore the concept of infinite peace. In 1979, Kusama voluntarily committed herself to a psychiatric ward in Tokyo, where she lives today and continues to create with the enthusiasm “of a child.” Her artwork is still shown in prominent international exhibits.
“My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots.”
“Polka dots can’t stay alone. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots we become part of the unity of our environments.”
“All of my works are steps on my journey, a struggle for truth that I have waged with pen, canvas, and materials. Overhead is a distant, radiant star, and the more I stretch to reach it, the further it recedes. But by the power of my spirit and my single-hearted pursuit of the path, I have clawed my way through the labyrinthine confusion of the world of people in an unstinting effort to approach even one step closer to the realm of the soul.”
“I think I will be able to, in the end, rise above the clouds and climb the stairs to Heaven, and I will look down on my beautiful life.”
“I wanted to start a revolution, using art to build the sort of society I myself envisioned.”
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