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Yayoi Kusama

1929 | Matsumoto, Japan
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Japanese visual artist.

Yayoi Kusama was born into a prosperous and conservative family, but spent her childhood in the midst of a war-torn country. At the age of 10, she began to suffer from hallucinations. She used drawing as a means of fighting her fear of disintegration at the hands of an invisible world threatening to spread and swallow her up. From the very beginning, her mental illness took centre stage in her creative process. She studied at the Tokyo School of Fine Arts, where she was introduced to Nihonga painting. In the 1950s, she explored more abstract forms, which were well received by both the artistic and psychiatric communities. The subjects of her childhood drawings (flowers, the cosmos, the heart) are repeated in an infinite and uniform pattern. In the late 1950s, she moved to New York and studied at the Art Students League. It was during this time that she created her Infinity Net series, whose larger and larger compositions, exhibited for the first time at the Brata Gallery in 1959, seem to submerge the viewer in a network of dots and lines. According to critic Lucy Lippard*, this work placed her within the Eccentric Abstraction movement, which is defined by a rejection of strict minimalism, and the inclusion of emotion, sensuality, and the use of synthetic materials endowed with organic shapes and a certain sexual resonance.

In 1963, the artist unveiled her first installation in New York, at the Gertrude Stein Gallery, Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show, a boat covered in white phallic shapes in a room with walls clad in wallpaper sporting the same pattern. Her series of obsessional objects are tied to sexuality, food, and furniture. In 1963, she organized her first libertarian happenings and fashion shows. She returned to Japan in 1973, where after 1980 she started producing flexible sculptures and environments that play with mirror effects and artificial lighting: closed and sensual spaces, always saturated with her emblematic dots. In the 1990s, several exhibitions secured her international recognition, enabling her to create monumental installations comprising inflatable objects and outdoor sculptures.

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Fabienne Dumont

Translated from French by Toby Cayouette.

From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices
© 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque
© Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions
Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Flower H. A. H., 1954, tempera on paper, 31.1 x 28.7 cm, 121.4 x 115.16 in., © Brooklyn Museum, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Accumulation, 1952, ink on paperboard, 42.2 x 30.2 cm, © MoMA, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Flower, 1952, watercolor on paper, 26.4 x 187 cm, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo-Singapore, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Flower – A. & S., 1953, tempera on paper, 31.8 x 27.3 cm, 121.2 x 103.4 in., © Brooklyn Museum, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Net-No.2 Yellow, 1960, oil on fiberboard, 96.5 x 71 cm, private collection, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Suit, ca. 1962, painted textile application on suit, hanger, 101.6 x 76.2 x 10,2 cm, 40 x 30 x 4 in, © Photo: Albin Dahlströ, Moderna Museet, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Kusama with Macaroni Girl, Dressing Table and Infinity Net Painting, ca. 1964, installation, variable dimensions, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity mirror room phallis field, 1965, installation, sewn stuffed fabric and mirrors, 360 x 360 x 324 cm, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Yayoi Kusama in Narcissus Garden at the Venice Biennial, 1966, installation, 1500 plastic mirrors balls, variable dimensions, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo-Singapore, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Pumpkin, 1981, cloth an acrylic on canvas, 130 x 97 cm, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo-Singapore, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Kusama with Pumpkin, 2010, installation, variable dimensions, Aichi Triennale, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo-Singapore; Victoria Miro Gallery, London David Zwirner, New York, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Blue Polka Dots, 2010, acrylic on canvas, 194 x 194 cm, courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo-Singapore, Victoria Miro Gallery, London, David Zwirner, New York, © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama — AWARE Women artists / Femmes artistes

Yayoi Kusama, Kusama with Dots Obsession, 2012, mixed media, © Yayoi Kusama

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