Noted Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has often been described as an obsessional artist, and it is easy to see why she has earned that moniker. Yayoi Kusama has used her obsession with art and her pursuit of perfection to achieve great success in not only painting but sculpture, performance art and artistic installations as well.
In addition to her designation as an obsessional artist, Yayoi Kusama is also closely associated with the Pop Art and Minimalism movements. The influences of these artistic movements is clearly evident in her work, and further proof of her many talents.
It is clear that Yayoi Kusama had talent from a very young age, and she has often said that she enjoyed painting even as a young child. Even at such a young age, Yayoi Kusama had already started experimenting with strange hallucinations involving large fields of dots. These dots would go on to become a central theme of her painting, influencing her work long past her talented childhood.
Even though she had little in the way of formal art training, Yayoi Kusama showed a clear talent for painting and other forms of artistic expression. Her love of art and her desire to be an artist led her to the U.S. in 1957, where she lived and worked in New York City.
Unfortunately for the art world, many of Yayoi Kusama's earliest works did not survive her trip to America. Instead, the artist destroyed many of her earliest works of art before moving from her native Japan.
Once she moved to New York City, some of her earliest works were comprised of tiny marks on huge canvasses. These were described by the artist as her Infinity Net paintings, and they were unlike anything contemporary audiences had seen.
These works were strange, but they were also powerful. In these huge paintings, Yayoi Kusama explored the psychological and the physical limits of painting, using the seemingly endless number of marks to create a hypnotic sensation that was almost impossible to forget.
In addition to her Infinity paintings, many of Yayoi Kusama's other work of the period followed the Minimalist style. At the same time, her work was quickly moving past Minimalism and exhibiting the influence of the Pop Art movement.
In addition to traditional Pop Art and Minimalist painting, Yayoi Kusama also showed a strong affinity for performance art, and she quickly gained favor among the avant-garde community of New York City. By that time, her work was routinely being exhibited alongside contemporaries like Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol and Donald Judd, laying the foundation for what would become an even more successful career.
Even after her early success, Yayoi Kusama continued to draw on the obsessive and seemingly endless repetition of patterns. These themes continued to emerge in all of her works, including her sculpture and installations.
One common theme that emerged in Yayoi Kusama's work was her use of sexually charged imagery, including her iconic Accumulation No. 1, which featured an ordinary armchair which was covered in small soft white phallic symbols.
One of her earliest installations also used the infinity theme, and it was aptly titled Infinity Mirror Room. Infinity Mirror Room - Phalli's Field consisted of a large mirrored room in which the floors were covered with hundreds of soft stuffed phallic objects, all of which had been decorated with red dots. This installation gave Yayoi Kusama the opportunity to play on some of her favorite themes, from infinity and repetition to uncomfortable subjects like sexuality and sexual anxiety.
Yayoi Kusama was also powerful performance artists, often exploring antiwar and antiestablishment themes in her work. Her performance art often featured public nudity, a shocking departure from the norms of the day.
One of the most provocative of these public performance art installations found Yayoi Kusama drawing tiny dots on the naked bodies of the participants. Even more shockingly, the show was held, without prior permission, in the fountain of the New York Museum of Modern Art's sculpture garden. Some critics accused Yayoi Kusama of being a shameless self-promoter, but others were intrigued by her boldness, and by the vision of the performance.
Even today, Yayoi Kusama continues to be a controversial artist, but she is also widely acclaimed and has been highly successful. Her unique works have gained fans around the world, from her native Japan to the streets of New York City and far beyond.
Infinity Nets (HIWO), 2015
acrylic on canvas
76 3/8 x 76 3/8 inches