Artist Spotlight: Yayoi Kusama
Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama first rose to fame around 1960, working first in abstract expressionism and then parapop in the 60's. While Kusama has worked in painting, sculpture, installation and performance art, she is known for sculpture and total created environments today, like the one she is pictured in above. Kusama's "Accumulations," created in 1962, are mainly found and repurposed pieces of furniture, which are covered in phallic protrusions and painted over in white. Along with stereotypically feminine and domestic elements like high heels and tea kettles, Kusama flips the script of gendered objects and questions the patriarchy's role in a household, a sphere thought to be feminine. In Kusama's commentary, the phallus or male role dominates the interior domestic sphere as well as the outer world. Kusama has over the years created rooms like the polka dot room above, playing with sculpture, performance, and audience participation. Visually, she relies heavily on color and print to add depth to an otherwise simple form within a space, and repetition, like of the dotted protrusions above, to complicate the space.
Her prints have drawn the attention of many fashion lovers. In 2006, Louis Vuitton x Marc Jacobs featured Kusama's polka dots in their ad campaign, connecting art and fashion and bringing Kusama further into fame. Kusama's "Infinity Rooms," which she has continued to design and make since 1963, are rooms of mirrored glass into which she projects colored lights and hangs neon balls of light as to reflect and bounce off the mirrored walls, making the space appear complex and infinite despite its often simple and intimate form.
The rooms, while spectacular on their own, are also crowd-pleasers as spectacles easily photographed. Kusama's installations can be both praised and critiqued for their inciting of audience experience, which has been magnified since the rise of the digital age and smart phones. Today, Kusama is known for her recent work, "Obliteration Room," started in 2011, which invites viewers to participate in covering walls, floor, and all furniture in the colored dot stickers which they are given upon entering the installation. The created environment has toured the world, most recently appearing at David Zwirner Gallery in New York City. The work represents Kusama's renewed participation within the art world after returning to Japan in the 1970's, after which her art production slowed down. "Obliteration Room" revisits elements of her past work; the dots are a pop art staple, and the furniture, like her furniture sculptures, becons toward issues of domesticity and stereotypical femininity. In allowing viewers to enter and participate within the work, changing its form, Kusama engages the body of the viewer and allows its physicality to affect the physical appearance of the artwork. Kusama is an intriguing figure in the art world today. As an artist concerned with sexuality and gender dynamics, and working formally with surrealism and pop, the recent fascination with her work in the digital age certainly complicates a reading of her work. When viewers enter her spaces merely to snap a photo for Instagram or Snapchat, how is Kusama's 1960's vision blurred, and how much is she commenting on the role of viewer spectatorship?
I can't wait to see what she creates next, but I also can't wait to see the viral reaction on her next big work of art.