Japanese art can be surprising and strange. It can even shock you. The name of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is well known outside Japan mainly because she spent some time living in New York City until the very beginning of the 1970s. If you have never heard about her then you will be really surprised to find out that Yayoi Kusama influenced Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg art. Her works are bright and recognizable at the same time as she is pretty interested in psychedelic colors. Yayoi Kusama’s works include installations, sculpture, paintings, performance art, collages, and literature. At first sight her works seem to be quite simple as she exploits exaggerated geometrical forms and rhythm as well as patterns and repetition. Nothing special. But at the same time simple forms are used by the artist unpredictably and unexpectedly.
She herself was influenced by American and European avant-garde art and she literally hated traditional Japanese art especially when she attended Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts. “When I think of my life in Kyoto I feel like vomiting”, remembers Yayosi Kusama. Indeed it was difficult time for her. According to her confessions while living along with her family in Kyoto she suffered from hallucinations and obsessive thoughts. Her relations with her own mother were tough as little Yayoi was abused by her mom. It was her aim to leave the country and everything she loathed.
Even though she was taught Japanese technique of Nihonga painting Yayoi Kusama was much more interested in abstract art. Her style is polka dot. She covers all of her works with this pattern. It turned out that these polka dots were from her hallucinations. She started her career covering canvases, walls floors with these spots. But it wasn’t enough. She continued covering absolutely everything she saw on her way. Thus Yayoi Kusama painted her assistants, shoes, household objects, chairs and many other things surrounding her.
Living in America in the 1960s Yayoi Kusama supposedly was a leading avant-garde artist. She was pretty prolific at the time even though it wasn’t financial success. Kusama’s happenings were pretty impressive especially those she held in Central Park and on the Brooklyn Bridge. Along with her naked assistants she protested against the Vietnam war. Once she even sent a letter to Richard Nixon with offer to have sex just in case he would stop the war. It was quite outrageous. Obviously he rejected her.
In the late 1960s Kusama founded Kusama Fashion Company Ltd. Her fashion style is very recognizable as Kusama uses the same polka dots producing accessories, shoes, jewelry. By the way she has collaborated with Lancome, Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs as well.
Later in 1973 Kusama decided to come back home. She was ill. At the time she started to write weird poems that were really shocking at the time. I suppose it is still strange works of hers. “One day I was looking at the red flower patterns of the tablecloth on a table, and when I looked up I saw the same pattern covering the ceiling, the windows and the walls, and finally all over the room, my body and the universe. I felt as if I had begun to self-obliterate, to revolve in the infinity of endless time and the absoluteness of space, and be reduced to nothingness”.
Nowadays she lives and works in Japan. She is still prolific, strange and talented of course.