Kusama was born in Matsumoto in 1929. Kusama remembers growing up "as an unwanted child of unloving parents." A penchant for drawing and painting led her to plot her escape with the help of art magazines, and after sewing black-market American currency into the seams of her clothes, Kusama fled Japan on the advice of her hero, Georgia O'Keeffe.
She arrived in New York in 1958 and began to create a life for herself as an artist. Kusama made the front page of the New York Daily News in August 1969 after infiltrating the Museum of Modern Art's sculpture garden with a bunch of naked co-conspirators to perform her "Grand Orgy to Awaken the Dead."
Kusama's paintings, collages, sculptures, and environmental works all share an obsession with repetition, pattern, and accumulation. Hoptman writes that "Kusama's interest in pattern began with hallucinations she experienced as a young girl – visions of nets, dots, and flowers that covered everything she saw. Gripped by the idea of 'obliterating the world,' she began covering larger and larger areas of canvas with patterns." Her organically abstract paintings of one or two colours (the Infinity Net series), which she began upon arriving in New York, garnered comparisons to the work of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, and Barnett Newman.
|1967 Infinity Nets oil on canvas|
In the late 1970s, as Kusama stretched her vision further toward infinity by building ambitious mirror-room installations, she got lost somewhere along the way, and ended up back in Japan, at a Tokyo psychiatric hospital, in the small room where she stayed for over 20 years. Kusama learned during this time that the act of creation could also be a weapon in the battle against her mental illness. Kusama: "If I didn’t make art I'd probably be dead by now." She continued to work every day, returning to the hospital room only to eat and sleep because, she says, her life became easiest that way.
In the 1980s Kusama had solo shows of her work in France, New York, and London. In 1993 she was invited to the 45th Venice Biennale in Italy. She was invited to make permanent public art sculpture in Japan and Spain. She had a major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum and travelled to New York and Japan.
In 1998-1999 a major retrospective exhibition of her work toured America and Japan. In August 2010 she exhibited at the Aichi Triennale 2010 Nagoya.
In October 2006 Kusama became the first Japanese woman to receive the Praemium Imperiale, one of Japan’s most prestigious prizes for internationally recognised artists.
To date, Kusama has completed several major outdoor sculptural commissions, mostly in the form of brightly hued monstrous plants and flowers, for public and private institutions including the Fukuoka Municipal Museum of Art and Matsumoto City Museum of Art in Japan; Eurolille in Lille, France; and the Beverly Hills City Council in Los Angeles. She has exhibited work with Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns.
In 2008 Christies New York sold a work by her for $5.1 million, a record for a living female artist.
Part 1 of these posts look at Kusama's work from 1950 - 1990, part 2 from 1991 - 2005, and part 3 from 2005 to present day.
|1952 Bud chinese ink on paper|
|1953 Face No.5 watercolour, chinese ink, pastel on paper|
|1975 The Sea Bottom at the Sunset Time watercolour, pastel, collage on paper|
|1978 Cloud Movements spray paint on board|
|1978 Cloudy Evening spray paint on board|
|1978 Untitled (nets) painting|
|1979 On the Beach mineral pigments , gouache on board|
|1979 Shikishi watercolour|
|1980 Sea acrylic & spray paint on board|
|1982 Pumpkin lithograph|
|1983 Autumn Lake acrylic on paper|
|1985 Nets acrylic on canvas|
|1988 Journey acrylic on canvas|
|1988 Secret Lake acrylic on canvas|
|1988 Summer Comes oil on canvas|
|1990 Butterfly acrylic on canvas|
|1990 Dots acrylic on canvas|
|1990 Infinity Nets oil on canvas|
|1990 Pumpkin acrylic on canvas|
The presentation of these low resolution jpg files add more than words alone could impart. It is believed that this is fair use and does not infringe copyright. According to section 107 of the United States Copyright Act of 1976: The fair use of a copyrighted work…for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright. The images are used for non-profit purposes. This factor is noted as relevant by the Act.