The 10 Most Famous Artworks of Yayoi Kusama
Artworks include Dots Obsession, Pumpkin and Flowers...
Artworks include Dots Obsession, Pumpkin and Flowers...
You can also read this article in French or in Spanish.
Yayoi Kusama (草間 彌生, Kusama Yayoi, born 22 March 1929) is a Japanese contemporary artist who works primarily in sculpture and installation, but is also active in painting, performance, film, fashion, poetry, fiction, and other arts. Her work is based in conceptual art and shows some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art, and abstract expressionism, and is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. She has been acknowledged as one of the most important living artists to come out of Japan.
Embracing the rise of the hippie counterculture of the late 1960s, she came to public attention when she organized a series of happenings in which naked participants were painted with brightly coloured polka dots. Since the 1970s, Kusama has continued to create art, most notably installations in various museums around the world.
niood lists the 10 Most Famous Artworks of Yayoi Kusama:
Dots Obsession visually approximates the hallucinations Kusama reportedly suffered as a child, in which the entirety of her surrounding space was covered with repeating patterns. The installation also reveals the artist’s careful attention to the construction of space through colour and form, and to the play of light and perspective accomplished by repeating a few simple devices — creating an immersive experience from red paint, white dots, giant balloons and strategically placed mirrors.
By the late 1960s, the polka dots had developed into a strategy of what the artist described as ‘self-obliteration’. A prominent feature of her ‘happenings’ and performances of the period, and usually daubed onto the bodies of participants, they symbolically neutralised the ego, which Kusama blamed for the horror and destruction of the US–Vietnam War. She urged at the time:
Her fascination with pumpkins can be traced to her childhood. However, the pumpkin first appeared in Kusama’s artwork back in 1946 when she exhibited it in a traveling exposition in Matsumoto, her childhood town. This first piece was painted in the Nihonga style of traditional painting that was developed in Japan around the 19th century. After this first piece, Kusama did not feature pumpkins in her artwork again until she re-emerged them in the 1970s.
Known in Japan as Kabocha, Pumpkins are positive images to Kusama because they represent a positive piece of her troubled childhood in Matsumoto. As a young girl, Kusama spent hours drawing pumpkins. To her, pumpkins are representative of stability, comfort, and modesty. According to Kusama, she prefers to use pumpkins because not only are they attractive in both color and form, but they are also tender to the touch. Therefore, the inclusion of pumpkins in her artwork can be said to be due to the childhood memories that the vegetable triggers.
Flowers that bloom at midnight is a series of large scale sculptures, each with its distinct boisterous color scheme. Flowers have, for a long time being an essential part of Kusama’s oeuvre. She uses their metaphorical properties to reflect many of her conceptual preoccupations, along with her disregard for dichotomies.
Kusama’s flowers symbolize life and death, masculinity and femininity, and celebration and mourning. Their complex form – fragile, organic, finding uniqueness through repetition – finds resonance throughout her work.
Since she was a kid, Kusama has been around flowers thanks to her family’s nursery business. As a means of instinctively working through her early experiences, flowers get featured in plenty of her first drawings and paintings. In one of her earliest photographs, she could be seen almost obscured by large chrysanthemums.
Kusama, who is famous for her large scale polka dot-filled artworks, used bungee cords and metal staples to tightly wrap several trees in a red polyester fabric covered in white spots.
Yayoi Kusama dazzles audiences worldwide with her immersive “Infinity Mirror Rooms” and an aesthetic that embraces light, polka dots, and pumpkins.
Yayoi Kusama’s Butterfly represents a historic return for the artist to her mature style. Painted in 1982, the same year she would exhibit large new paintings and sculpture at Fuji Television Gallery, Tokyo and return to the European gallery scene with an exhibition at Naviglio Gallery in Milan, Butterfly manifests Kusama’s trademark motifs – the infinity net and the obliterating dots – in an immediately iconic depiction of one of her primary subjects, the butterfly.
Butterfly vibrantly encases the symbolic dots in a formal attempt to predict and measure the infinity of the unbounded universe. Kusama’s painting here presents an interesting dichotomy between the calming and whimsical visual qualities of the composition and the artist’s inquisitive, and obsessive, drive to contain and constrain her neuroses. Notably, the butterfly – made up of those quintessential dots – is not at all constrained by the seemingly limitless weave of nets that emanates out from beneath and behind. “I am not concerned with Surrealism, Pop Art, Minimal Art, or whatever. I am so absorbed in living my life,” and to that one might add creating her own idiosyncratic and iconic brand of art. The infinite repetition of the dots and nets represents a confrontation with an obsession with space, time, and the reality of its eventual termination, and Kusama has, in Butterfly, executed a masterful composition that blends her own autobiographical figurative and abstract imagery with the same psychic charge that emanates from her finest and most successful work.
To make Accumulation No. 1, her first sculpture, Kusama covered an armchair with scores of hand-sewn stuffed and painted protrusions, which she referred to as phalluses. “I make them and make them and then keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process. I call this obliteration.” When she first exhibited this work in New York, her home throughout the 1960s, critics were, perhaps not surprisingly, shocked by the sexualized transformation of an ordinary domestic object by a female artist.
Yayoi Kusama began painting “Infinity Nets,” the artist’s longest-running series, after moving to New York City in 1958. For Kusama, these abstract works covered in repeated, curved brushstrokes are an essential form of art therapy, inspired in part by her hallucinatory visions. “My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them,” she once explained. “They began to cover the walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe. I was always standing at the center of the obsession, over the passionate accretion and repetition inside of me.” In pursuit of this infinite abyss, Kusama has even painted her “Infinity Nets” in uninterrupted sessions of 40 to 50 hours. In 2014, this influential series set records in the art market. Her monochromatic “Infinity Net” White No. 28 (1960) was sold at auction for $7.1 million, which at the time was the highest price ever paid for a work by a living female artist.
The obliteration room (2002–present) is a family-friendly and participatory installation by one of the world’s most popular, well-loved artists, Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929 Matsumoto, Japan).
Beginning as a stark white interior, it encourages you to transform the space of our Creative Learning Centre by saturating it with a rainbow of brightly coloured dots. Watch as, over time, a dizzying blur of colour is built up by visitors applying brightly coloured stickers in various sizes to every surface.
With the familiar characteristics of a typical Aotearoa New Zealand home, The obliteration room at Auckland Art Gallery encourages visitors, especially children, to experience and engage with the artwork with little or no prompting.
Attracted to the social freedom and teeming postwar art scene in the United States, Kusama left Japan and moved to New York City in 1958. Soon thereafter, she began producing her Infinity Nets series of paintings, including No. F., in which she played with the notion of infinite repetition and infinite space. Combining her developing strategy of serial repetition with an allover painting method, the works collapse the distinction between figure and ground, giving equal weight to both the brushstrokes and the holes within them. Psychologically, the process of making these paintings was a form of catharsis for the artist, who sought to obliterate her fears and even herself through the act of repetition.