Her work is seen in countless art installations around the world including Los Angeles, London, and of course her eponymous museum in Tokyo. She also collaborated with fashion houses and held numerous pop-up exhibitions in various locales. In short, the colorful life of Yayoi Kusama is (literally) dotted with an inimitable wanderlust quality that captivates the public time and again. In this segment, we highlight some of her most iconic pieces, and introduce a few lesser-known but equally notable productions.
Almost as recognizable as her dots, Yayoi Kusama loved using pumpkins in her works. Seen in paintings as well as ceramic sculptures, room-sized pumpkin structures were also created as public art commissions including one that became the symbol of Naoshima Island, Japan, known for its density of art museums.
The Infinity Room
Kusama’s mental health issues are well-known and are an integral part of her artistic genius. Checked into Seiwa Hospital’s psychiatric ward in Shinjuku, Tokyo in 1977, the institution has become her home ever since. In fact, her studio is right across the street.
Her famous Infinity Rooms filled with mirrored walls, orbs and LED lights are likely a manifestation of her vivid hallucinations. Notoriously hard to get in wherever an exhibit is touring, one should expect long wait lines or tickets being sold out months in advance. Thankfully, permanent installations exist in many major cities around the world.
Almost never seen in public without her signature bob-cut wig, bright lipstick, and polka-dot dresses, Yayoi Kusama is a fashion statement of her own. Her colorful appearance contrasts against her stern facial expression, blurring the lines between mastery and madness.
Dubbed the Queen of Pop Art, Yayoi Kusama’s avant-garde style became a major source of influence of several artists in the movement, notably Andy Warhol. In the biographical documentary released in 2018 by Magnolia Films, she mentions Warhol to be a good friend but also accused him of plagiarizing her work. More of her life can be seen in the film discussing her struggles with feminism, sexuality, as well as her mental health.
Beyond The Art
Yayoi Kusama is a pioneer in her genre. She may be over 90 years old, but she slays like a young woman. She represents both the mainstream and the rebellious, the sexually liberated and those who are against all forms of sex. And long before Instagram and the advent of social media, she laid the foundations of modern aesthetics while championing social issues by being a guiding light that brings humanity together. Well beyond the art that made her famous, her cataclysmic effect on our culture will definitely live on forever.
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