Yayoi Kusama

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Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:43 am

Spot on: The Obliteration Room by Yayoi Kusama – in pictures

The Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama transformed a completely white room, including furniture, into a spectacle featuring her signature dots, helped by children who visited the exhibition over two weeks and placed brightly coloured stickers throughout the installation at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. The interactive children's project is part of Kusama's Look Now, See Forever exhibition. Kusama will also have a major exhibition at London's Tate Modern from 9 February. Step inside her dotty world here …

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 1 February 2012 12.20 GMT

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:44 am


It started with a white room … The Obliteration Room prior to being covered in stickers. Photograph: Mark Sherwood/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:46 am


A child decorating one of the walls …Photograph: Mark Sherwood/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:49 am


… and the furniture. Photograph: Mark Sherwood/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:51 am


… and don't forget the cups. Photograph: Mark Sherwood/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:54 am


Which colours shall I choose? Photograph: Mark Sherwood/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:57 am


Children covering the room in stickers … looks like the parents couldn't help taking part too. Photograph: Mark Sherwood/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 6:59 am


Is it starting to hurt your eyes? Photograph: Mark Sherwood/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 7:05 am


Oops missed a bit ... those piano keys look a bit white. Photograph: Stuart Addelsee/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 7:08 am


Ah that's better … The Obliteration Room with just a dash of colour. Photograph: Natasha Harth/Rex Features/Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Sat Feb 04, 2012 7:12 am

Yayoi Kusama's dot paintings are obsessive, weird, inspired - why can't we see more of her?

Germaine Greer

The Guardian, Monday 25 May 2009


Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama at the Serpentine Gallery with her work The Driving Image. Photograph: Graham Turner

Yayoi Kusama is an important artist who has been working internationally for nearly 50 years. Her work has been featured twice at the Venice Biennale, and hardly a year goes by without a solo show somewhere in Japan, Europe or the US - yet she has not had a major show in London since 2000. For an artist of her stature, that retrospective at the Serpentine and a couple of more recent shows at the Victoria Miro Gallery in London simply don't cut it. In 2005, her work was shown at Tate Liverpool as part of the Summer of Love show of art of the psychedelic era, as if her art was important only as evidence of the mindset of a particular moment, when she has been working with an intensity amounting to ferocity ever since she left New York and returned to Japan. This year, a major exhibition entitled Mirrored Years, originally curated by the Boijmans van Beuningen Museum in Rotterdam, has travelled to Sydney, where it has caused a good deal of excitement.

Kusama was born 80 years ago into a well-to-do, traditionalist Japanese family. From an early age she showed signs of mental disturbance, which her family construed as simple misbehaviour. Though she was pressured to make a conventional marriage, she was eventually allowed to study traditional nihonga painting in Kyoto. From the beginning, her obsessiveness manifested itself in particular forms of all-over patterning, at which she worked for thousands of hours; her trademark became her use of dots that obliterated the forms beneath and drew them into a single plane - obliteration as liberation, or vice versa. She has always been frank about the psychotherapeutic function of what she does, which might explain the indifference of the London art establishment to her work.

When she was 27 she left Japan for New York, where she felt she could immerse herself in her insistent mental processes and work out her fixations on a larger scale. Within 18 months she had her first solo exhibition of five enormous Infinity Net paintings, in which meticulously painted free-hand circles netted the entire expanse of canvas, white on white. New York artists bought her work, thinking it was like their own, but Kusama - then as now - was following her own ineluctable agenda. Warhol would use mechanical repetition; Kusama made herself the machine. She has said repeatedly that she was not concerned with surrealism, abstract expressionism, pop art or minimalism, but only with escaping her mental suffering through her art. For her, art and art therapy were the same thing. Sanity was the illusion.

Because Kusama's Infinity Net and Accumulation works are, in her words, "about an obsession: infinite repetition", it is not possible to comprehend the nature of her enterprise if all you see is a single something with dots on it. It is only when you step into one of her mirrored installations and see those familiar black dots, in three sizes, painted at random on a pumpkin-yellow ground and multiplied infinitely, that you can feel something of the panic that saw ambulances called nightly to her derelict studio in Manhattan. Her work is often ostensibly playful; she uses found objects and tosses them about apparently at random. But, given the doggedness of her iteration, they eventually transcend their banal natures and become environments in themselves. If Kusama sews up long pockets and stuffs them to make phalloid objects, as Louise Bourgeois has been known to do, she will not content herself with assemblages of three or four, but will go on to sew hundreds upon hundreds of them, to cover a sofa frame, or a rowing boat, with innumerable wobbly nobbles that it would be suggestive to sit upon.

When she arrived in New York, Kusama realised that she had to market herself, so she reclined nude on beds of phalluses for photographers - but hers wasn't the usual kind of self-promotion. Her relentless work was replacing the self she could not control, which tortured her with nameless dreads and hallucinations, with a new self. So, whenever her work was photographed, she had to be photographed with it. The more pious members of the art-loving public found this activity suspect, and doubted her sincerity.

Kusama left New York in 1973 for Japan, where she was treated in hospital for her mental illness. Those of us who, in the 1960s, suspected her of being opportunistic and derivative now have to register the fact that she has worked obsessively on the same themes ever since. Her work has been co-opted for all the isms and styles of the century, but it belongs to none of them. Kusama's practice is beyond theory.

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Re: Yayoi Kusama

Post  eddie on Tue Feb 14, 2012 7:38 pm

Yayoi Kusama – review

Tate Modern, London

Tim Adams

The Observer, Sunday 12 February 2012


Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room – Filled with the Brilliance of Life: 'It takes colour into more dimensions than the eye can easily cope with.' Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

All art is attention-seeking, but few artists have ever taken their demands to be noticed to the extremes of Yayoi Kusama. Now 82, and resident by choice for the past 35 years in a psychiatric care home in her native Tokyo, Kusama is currently seeing all her wishes come true. Not only has she been granted this obsessive-compulsive 14-room retrospective by the Tate, one of her career-defining Infinity Net paintings sold for $5.1m in 2008, a record for a living female artist.

Success did not come easily. Born in patriarchal and deeply conservative Japan of the late 1920s, even the idea of becoming an artist, as a woman, must have taken a supreme effort of will. To become an artist quite as liberated from convention as Kusama must have felt a lot like the insanity she has always feared – and to some extent nurtured – in herself.

Her autobiography, Infinity Net, translated for this show, traces, with suitably dreamlike intensity, the web of influences that shaped her and her art. As a child, she claims to have experienced hallucinations, and nightmarish out of body experiences, which she subsequently attempted to describe in paranoid, vivid paintings alive with eyes and threatening organic forms, some of which, from the 1950s, make an alarming and expressive opening to the exhibition. She seems to have been drawn to surrealism, but given it a less playful, more psychologically unbalanced field, an edge perhaps explained by the fact that at the same age as she was seeing her visions, she was forced by her mother to spy on her father in bed with his string of mistresses and geishas. She developed a loathing of phallic images, and an overwhelming fascination with voyeurism.

Her response to these disturbing, formative forces seems twofold: she sought a kind of self-obliteration, covering herself and everything around her with her trademark polka dots – there is, among many other spotted surfaces, a fabulously spacey suburban living room here in which the edges of objects, sofas and tables are blurred by primary-coloured circular stickers, picked out in a psychedelic light. Elsewhere, mirrored "infinity rooms" take these points of colour into more dimensions than the eye can easily cope with. Almost nothing has been immune from Kusama's dottiness: horses and cats, buses and houses, trees and fields and rivers, she has camouflaged them all. Damien Hirst's outsourced efforts look decidedly spotty by comparison.


Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern. Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

Alongside these identity-denying projects she also sought to overcome her phallic anxieties with a workaholic kind of aversion therapy. For a long period in middle age, she painstakingly stitched together apparently infinite numbers of "soft-sculpted" penises, which, her autobiography suggests, she found perverse solace in lying down among. These forms, made from stuffed surgical-looking cloth, grow out of chairs and lamps, shoes and bookshelves. In one celebrated instance, Kusama covered an entire rowing boat with them, oars and all; the boat is given a room of its own here, complete with the 999 reproductions of the image which paper walls, floor and ceiling. Elsewhere, the teeming, faceless sock puppets create cacti-like forests, run wild, and coming at you from all angles – again, the psycho-dramatists of contemporary British art, Tracey Emin and Sarah Lucas, are made to seem somewhat lightweight in their neuroses.

Kusama arrived in America, having corresponded with Georgia O'Keeffe, in 1957. By the early 60s, she was exhibiting alongside Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol, both of whom she seems to have influenced, with her manic exhibitionism as much as anything. The 60s in New York, the mix of underground promiscuity and hallucinogens, were waiting for her, in a way. She became a self-styled shaman, organising orgies and happenings in which hippies lost and found themselves by painting one another's nakedness with Kusama's polka dots until the NYPD arrived, to clear up the mess. The human dot-to-dot events were captured on films, which gained an arthouse following, and which are oddly compulsive viewing now as ethnographic documents – like those early films of the lost tribes of Papua New Guinea – evidence of another, hairier, time and place altogether.

Kusama was a curator of these events, never a participant, except with a pot of poster paint; still, she returned to Japan in the early 70s carrying some of their generally good-natured lunacy with her, and checked herself into an asylum, where she has lived as an ostentatious recluse ever since. In recent years she has returned to painting canvases; large, vibrantly coloured pictures which play with her recurring vocabulary of eyes and roots and wriggling spermatazoa-like forms, and which taken together have a borrowed aboriginal quality. She came over for the opening of this show, a rare public sighting, and sat in her polka-dotted wheelchair, in her polka-dotted dress in the midst of all this colour, looking like a child in the internal landscape of her own making, half magic roundabout, half Freudian case study. You wouldn't, you guess, want to live in this landscape full-time, but as a tourist destination, it certainly makes for a lively hour or so.

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