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Yayoi Kusama

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Yayoi Kusama
Contemporary Artists

Yayoi Kusama 草間彌生

  • Avant-garde Japanese painter, sculptor, poet and novelist
  • Famous for her polka dot and pumpkin motifs
  • Born March 29, 1929
  • born in Matsumoto, Nagano prefecture
  • Spent much of her life in New York
  • Collaborates with a wide range of creative talents

Yayoi Kusama is an internationally renowned artist in the Japanese tradition of semi-crazed female shamanism whose psychedelic artwork directly mirrors her disturbed mental state. Her trademark is polka dots what she refers to as "infinity nets which are the theme of hallucinations she has experienced since childhood. The pumpkin is also a frequently recurring motif of hers.

While primarily a painter, she also uses the mediums of sculpture and literature.

Kusama began painting using the polka dot and net motif at around age ten, using watercolors, pastels and oil paints.

She departed Japan for New York in 1956, aged 27, where she became prominent in the alternative art and political scene, organizing happenings on the Brooklyn Bridge, in Central Park, and in other prominent places, based on painting and fashion, and often featuring nudity.

Yayoi Kusama

Kusama was also involved in anti-Vietnam War statements of protest. She extended these activities to Europe, too.

Her 1968 film, Kusama's Self-Obliteration, won awards at the Fourth International Experimental Film Competition in Belgium, the Maryland Film Festival and the Ann Arbor Film Festival.

In 1973, at age 44, Kusama returned to Japan and took up residence in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo, where she has continued to live and work ever since.

As well as her painting, she turned to writing, publishing, among other works, The Hustlers Grotto of Christopher Street in 1983, which won her a prize.

Kusama continued to paint and exhibit in Europe and the United States, and in 1994 began working on open-air sculptures, several of which can be seen in various locations around Japan, as well as at the Lille TGV station in France.

The rest of the '90s saw her continue to exhibit worldwide, particularly in New York, a city she has a particular connection with.

Kusama Yayoi.

Yayoi Kusama on the cover of Tokyo's Big Issue

Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958-1968

In 2000 Kusama won recognition from the Japanese government with an official commendation from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Minister of Education's Prize for the Encouragement of Art. Further prizes from both within and outside Japan were awarded throughout the 2000s.

Her "Kusamatrix" exhibition at the Mori Museum in Tokyo in 2004 drew over 520,000 people.

Kusama is very collaborative and has worked with the musician, Peter Gabriel, the enormously prolific, and often erotic, photographer Nobuyoshi Araki, fashion designer Issey Miyake, and the writer Ryu Murakami appearing in the film "Topaz" that he wrote.

In 2012 her trademark red and white polka-dot "nerve" sculptures were shown in Louis Vuitton stores around the world including London, New York and other major capitals.

Early in 2012 the Tate Modern in London hosted a major exhibition by the artist, which moved on to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

An obsessive, and tending to chronic depression, Kusama credits her art with keeping her from suicide.

Kusama Yayoi nerve sculptures.

Kusama Yayoi nerve sculptures

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