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Visual Art: Yayoi Kusama

Online resources supporting the learning and teaching of the Visual Arts

About Yayoi Kusama

       

Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生 or 弥生 Kusama Yayoi?, born March 22, 1929) is a Japanese artist and writer. Throughout her career she has worked in a wide variety of media, including paintingcollagesculpture,performance art, and environmental installations, most of which exhibit her thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition and pattern. A precursor of the pop artminimalist and feminist art movements, Kusama influenced contemporaries such as Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg.[1] Although largely forgotten 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. (Read more on Wikipedia).

Yayoi Kusama at the Tate Modern

The nine decades of Yayoi Kusama’s life have taken her from rural Japan to the New York art scene to contemporary Tokyo, in a career in which she has continuously innovated and re-invented her style. Well-known for her repeating dot patterns, her art encompasses an astonishing variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, film, performance and immersive installation. It ranges from works on paper featuring intense semi-abstract imagery, to soft sculpture known as ‘Accumulations’, to her ‘Infinity Net’ paintings, made up of carefully repeated arcs of paint built up into large patterns.

Since 1977 Kusama has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric institution, and much of her work has been marked with obsessiveness and a desire to escape from psychological trauma. In an attempt to share her experiences, she creates installations that immerse the viewer in her obsessive vision of endless dots and nets or infinitely mirrored space. (Read more on tate.org.uk)

Yayoi Kusama
The Passing Winter
 2005

Photo: 
© James Deavin
Courtesy Victoria Miro Gallery, London
© Yayoi Kusama

 

Yayoi Kusama in British Vogue 2012

Subject guide created by

contact Tania Sheko 

An outsider in many contexts

At the centre of the art world in the 1960s, she came into contact with artists including Donald JuddAndy WarholJoseph Cornell and Claes Oldenburg, influencing many along the way. She has traded on her identity as an ‘outsider’ in many contexts – as a female artist in a male-dominated society, as a Japanese person in the Western art world, and as a victim of her own neurotic and obsessional symptoms. After achieving fame and notoriety with groundbreaking art happenings and events, she returned to her country of birth and is now Japan’s most prominent contemporary artist. (Read more on tate.org.uk)