Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist and writer. “Known for her innovative soft-sculpture, immersive, polka-dotted experiences, is among Japan’s most revered living artists.” She first gained influence as an artist in New York during the post war period, having arrived in 1958, and in the late ‘60s became known for staging and photographing provocative scenes with naked subjects whose bodies she would paint with polka dots beforehand. She also staged fashion shows and anti-war demonstrations during this period.
Returning to Japan in the 1970s, “she began writing shockingly visceral and surrealistic novels, short stories, and poetry, including The Hustler’s Grotto of Christopher Street(1983) and Violet Obsession (1998).”
In 1993 she presented an exhibit for for the Japanese Pavilion at the 1993 Venice Biennale, making her the first woman to represent Japan at the exhibition. Following the success of her presentation at the Biennale in ‘93, Kusama went on to create a number of open-air sculptures the following year.
Throughout her career she has worked in a wide variety of media, including painting, collage, scat sculpture, performance art, and environmental installations, most of which exhibit her thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition and pattern. “She has explained her use of repetition and polka dots as a means to explore infinity and obsessively negate the self, such as in her immersive installations Infinity Mirror Room (1965) and Fireflies on the Water (2002).” A forerunner of the pop art, minimalist and feminist art movements, Kusama has been claimed to have influenced contemporaries like Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg.
Despite falling into a brief period of obscurity 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,” having been named on of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2016. In fact, according to a survey of museum attendance in 2014, Yayoi Kusama was regarded as the most popular artist in the world. “‘Like many artists who are ahead of their time, she was misunderstood in her hometown for decades, but now there is a museum there with the largest permanent collection of her art.’”
Today her works can be seen at some of the most famous museums around the world including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Tate Modern in London, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo, where she lives to this day in a mental institution, across the street from her studio. If are unfamiliar with Yayoi Kusama, you can watch an excerpt from her documentary, The Princess of Polka Dots, or visit her website (also linked to her name in the heading) to see a full list of her works and accomplishments, which are too numerous to include here.
Her work is truly visionary and stunning and indescribable and I can only imagine what it must be like to experience her art in person.