Yayoi Kusama’s Hallucinatory and Hypnotic Monumental Art

Yayoi Kusama is the leading contemporary artist in Japan today. She is famous for becoming famous in New York in the 1950’s and 1960’s, through her Happening’s performances, amazing large-scale paintings and phallic sculptures, as well as her publicity seeking and actual publications. She purportedly dated famous New York artists yet she is supposedly celibate yet her work pours from pure raw sexual energies. In the 1960’s she took her work to the Venice Biennale even though she was not invited, which is exactly what New York City 1980’s superstar Jeff Koons would do to get his own work seen in an international context a few decades later. She is known for having said she is trying to cure her mental illnesses with her art. She has said she wants her work seen in an international context and not as Japanese, and certainly not as kawaii “cute” culture coming from Japan today. Kusama’s path reminds me of Yoko Ono’s, another wealthy independent woman from Japan who moved to New York and had an art studio. Yoko Ono’s work was accepted by the New York art world as art, even while she was attacked for daring to produce art music. Kusama’s work is sometimes discussed relative to Minimalism, yet for me the erasure of the body and the sexual being in Minimalism is completely counter to Kusama’s highly sexually charged body and Happenings of the 1960’s in New York. (Vincent Johnson in Los Angeles)

http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com

 Yayoi Kusama, Sex obsession

This Kusama gold cap reminds me of James Lee Byars gold room installation.

In 1948 Kusama entered a four-year course of study at the Kyoto Municipal School of Arts and Crafts, where she “signed up for the Nihonga or Japanese-style painting course but found it “unbearable” and often missed classes. She left Kyoto after two years and by 1955 had established herself as a prominent artist in Japan, with some acclaimed solo exhibitions on her resume. But she had also grown tired of a country “too small, too servile, too feudalistic, and too scornful of women.” In her view, “My art needed a more unlimited freedom, and a wider world.”

“Frequently appearing on tabloid covers and TV talk shows in New York, she became known as the Queen of the Hippies for her pro-sex and antiwar work that attracted young followers. Not only did she direct flag-burning and body-painting events (where she invited people to take off their clothes and paint polka dots on one another’s bodies) but she also provided her hippie friends with lodging and fun work through various commercial enterprises, such as Kusama Fashion Company (fashion design), Kusama Orgy (a weekly newspaper) and KOK (a gay social club). Her first film, Kusama’s Self- Obliteration (1968), a collaboration with director Jud Yalkut, won several international film awards. But above all, her fashion business burgeoned, with her garments—featuring holes that revealed sexual parts—selling in some 400 stores, including Bloomingdale’s.” (Art in America)

Yayoi_Kusama_ATM.jpg

This geometric abstraction painting is amazing in is regularity and repetition.

Yayoi Kusama painting from the mid-sixties

NHK, Japan’s state broadcaster, filmed a three-hour documentary about the artist, chronicling an 18-month period in which Kusama completed a hundred paintings, some of which will be shown at the Tate.

Published: February 2012
Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2011; 239 pages.; Photo-collage of Kusama with her Sex Obsessional Chair, 1962. All images © Yayoi Kusama Studio.;

“Kusama with “Love Forever” buttons, which she distributed at the opening of Kusama’s Peep Show, a mirror-lined environmental installation at Castellane Gallery. New York, 1966. Photograph by Hal Reiff.”

Yayoi Kusama. Dots Obsession – Infinity Mirrored Room. 2008 (installation view)

‘She does not want to be associated with other commercially successful Japanese artists, such as Yoshitomo Nara or Takashi Murakami. “Such Japanese art is categorised as kawaii culture,” she says, wrinkling up her nose at the word for “cute” that has come to define an entire genre. “I have never seen my art as kawaii like that. I don’t want to be seen as a Japanese artist. I just want to be able to explore my art freely in an international context.”’ Financial Times London magazine

Yayoi Kusama. Violet Obsession. 1994

Yayoi Kusama, Violet Obsession, (1994) Sewn and stuffed fabric over rowboat and oars

'Dots Obsession', 1996, At the Mattress Factory Pittsburgh, 1996
  • Kusama with 'Aggregation: 1000 Boat Show', Gertrude Stein Gallery, New York, 1963

Yayoi Kusama, 'Dots Obsession (Night)' ['Dots Obsession (Day)' visible in the background] at Akasaka Art Flower

Yayoi Kusama, ‘Dots Obsession (Night)’ ['Dots Obsession (Day)' visible in the background] at Akasaka Art Flower

Photo: Mayumi Sudo

Yayoi Kusama in her studio
Kusama in her studio, December 2010. The studio is in a small three-story complex in a Shinjuku back-lane

Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama   Infinitely Kusama Website

Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama   Infinitely Kusama Website

Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern in London

Yayoi Kusama at Tate Modern in London

Yayoi Kusama - Polka Dots Madness 3

In 2008, Christies New York sold one of her pieces for $5.1 million–a record for a living female artist.

Yayoi Kusama

Kusama grayscale painting

Body-painting for Kusama’s film Self-Obliteration

One of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms

High Heels by Yayoi Kusama

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10 Things About: Yayoi Kusama

Monday, February 27th, 2012

I can’t begin to explain my fascination with Yayoi Kusama, nor do I believe she would want me to. Kusama is one of Japan’s most prolific artists, and is best known for her massive Infinity Net paintings, her sculptures, her performance art, and her installations. She is also a novelist, a poet, and a fashion designer. Kusama’s artwork is a constant exploration of the way she sees the world, and a meticulous examination of the “single dot” in the universe that is her own life. As Ali Smith wrote in Tate Etc., “For [Kusama], art is a fertile bleed, something which spreads on to the walls, the floor, out into the room, all over the self. Mindscape and landscape are the same in her work, a reminder that we are all where we live, that we make what surrounds us as much as it makes us.”

Kusama, now 82 years old, will be launching a collaboration with Louis Vuitton in July 2012. She is the first female artist to collaborate with the brand.

1. Yayoi Kusama’s childhood in rural Japan was “like a nightmare” (her words in issue 10 of Lula, not mine). Born in 1929 to an abusive mother, she experienced continual hallucinations throughout her childhood, and was prone to morbid obsessions. The first subjects to appear in Kusama’s earliest paintings from childhood were her mother, the sun, the moon, and clouds.

2. Kusama left Japan for New York City in 1958 and spent several years entrenched in the art scene; she exhibited with everyone from Donald Judd to Andy Warhol, and was friendly with Georgia O’Keeffe.

3. In the sixties, Kusama opened a boutique where she sold her own mod clothing designs, many of which were made from see-through materials. Nudity was common in much of her work at the time, and the shop included private studios where models would have their bodies painted and photographed.

(photography copyright © Harrie Verstappen, The Looniverse)

4. In 1968, Kusama designed a bridal gown for two men to wear at their wedding, which took place at Kusama’s Church of Self-Obliteration and was directed by the artist herself, who had been dubbed the “High Priestess of Polka Dots.” Polka dots—which represent disease for Kusama—started appearing as motifs in her paintings around age 10; they are present in many of her works, including street performances that involved painting polka dots on nude men and women.

5. Kusama calls her work “psychosomatic,” and continually explores the themes of eternity, emptiness, hallucination, obsession, compulsion, accumulation, and repetition, among others. In her thirties, she focused in particular on entropy, sensuality, and femininity through a surrealist lens.

6. In addition to her autobiography, Infinity Net, Kusama has written eight novels and countless poems.


(photography copyright © Harrie Verstappen, The Looniverse)

7. Throughout the late 1960s, Kusama staged over 200 “Happenings” in public spaces around New York City and throughout Europe. The performances included body painting festivals, fashion shows, orgies, and anti-war demonstrations. When she moved back to Japan, Kusama began staging performances on temple grounds in Tokyo—for one, she toilet-papered a graveyard.

8. In 1968, the artist launched Kusama Fashion Company Ltd., and sold her avant-garde clothing and accessory line in “Kusama Corner” at Bloomingdale’s in New York. She staged fashion shows in Rome, Paris, Belgium, and Germany.

9. Kusama moved back to Japan in 1973 to focus on her health and to pursue a more peaceful artistic lifestyle than New York City would allow. Since the mid-1970s, she has lived voluntarily in a psychiatric hospital, and continues to create artwork in a studio nearby.

10. In order to create a body of work that she feels will leave an impact on future generations, Kusama would like to live to be at least 200 or 300 years old. As long as she has the energy to continue creating, she will carry on.

Visit Tate Modern’s Yayoi Kusama exhibition before it ends on June 5, 2012.

text by Stephanie Fereiro
image sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Spectacular New Cosmos Suite Paintings by Vincent Johnson (Numbers 4, 5, 6 large)

Three new paintings are added to the Cosmos Suite by Vincent Johnson on 2.24.2013. These are the 7th, 8th and 9th paintings created in the Cosmos Suite. They are also the 4th, 5th and 6th large scale paintings in this body of work.

These Cosmos Suite paintings by Los Angeles base artist Vincent Johnson are created using various experiments in media and paint application. Johnson has done substantial research into the area of the history of painting materials and there use, and employs this knowledge in the production of his work.

There are now a total of nine paintings in the Cosmos Suite. Six of the nine paintings are thirty by forty inches in size. Three of the paintings – the originals in the suite, are twenty by twenty four inches in size. Each painting takes about a month to create as there is a three week drying time between the first and second layers of the painting. As the suite grows there will be additional sizes including larger works.

1A.artcat

Cosmos Suite: A Meeting Between Two Figures in Space

Poured Liquin in center of painting, added stripes of pure paint color to canvas, mixed with paint rags, dabbed till thick paint areas are leveled out.

Large areas of vertical yellow in painting. Layered canvas in thick paint in certain areas. Reminds me of seeing Gerhard Richter’s painting retrospective in London in the fall of 2011.

3A.artcat

Cosmos Suite: State and Grace

Used sponges on face of painting. Layered canvas in thick paint.

Poured Liquin in center of painting, added stripes of pure paint color to canvas, mixed with paint rags, dabbed till thick paint areas are leveled out.
Reminds me of Florida’s mysterious beauty

Shape is of Florida in part

2A.artcat

 Cosmos Suite: Astral Melodies

used sponges on side and surface of the painting. used large brushwork. Layered canvas in paint.

Poured Liquin in between stripes of pure paint color to canvas, mixed with paint rags, dabbed till thick paint areas are leveled out. Started out with thick brush in corner to mix, abandoned this quickly.

Sensing jazz standards here – floating fields of opulent pure romantic color

Vincent Johnson received his MFA in Fine Art Painting from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA in Painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was selected for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 for the Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles. His 2010 photo project – California Toilet, Filthy Light Switch, is in exhibition at Another Year in LA gallery in West Hollywood through early March 2013. His work has appeared in several venues, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (Freestyle (2001, The Philosophy of Time Travel, 2007, and The Bearden Project, 2011-2012), PS1 Museum, Queens, NY, SK Stiftung, Cologne, Germany, Santa Monica Museum of Art, LAXART, Las Cienegas Projects, Boston University Art Museum, Kellogg Museum, Cal Poly Pomona.
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Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos suite (2012)

Golden Dream (2012), part of the Cosmos Suite of paintings

California Toilet, Filthy Light Switch (2010) by Vincent Johnson. Archival Epson print (Private Collection, Miami, Florida). I provided this image as I realized its clear similarity to Golden Dream, which I completed a week ago in my studio in Los Angeles.

Two at Night (2012) from the Cosmos suite of paintings, Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches

New Abstract Paintings: The Cosmos suite (2012)

Two at Night (2012) from the Cosmos suite of paintings, Oil on canvas, 30×40 inches

Cosmos. Oil on canvas  2012 by Vincent Johnson, 20 x 24 inches

Cosmos Red Yellow Green. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson, 20x 24 inches

Green God. Oil on canvas 2012 by Vincent Johnson, 20 x 24 inches

This new painting series is part of my ongoing exploration of painting materials and techniques from the history of painting. The works combine knowledge of painting practices of both abstract and representation paintings. The works concern themselves purely with the visual power that paintings can do through the manipulation of paint. Some of the underpaintings are allowed to dry for months; some of those are built dark to light, others light to dark. None are made in a single setting. Most are worked and reworked using studio materials. Each new series takes a different approach to the painted surface from how the paint is applied, to varying the painting mediums. This suite concerns itself with the layering of paint by building up the surface and altering and reworking the wet paint with studio tools.

Two larger paintings will be completed and photographed on Sunday, July 15, 2012 and posted here.

Vincent Johnson is an artist and writer in Los Angeles

Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – installation shot – 2
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – studio shot – 1 (Silver hand)
Vincent Johnson – in my studio working on my Nine Grayscale Paintings
Vincent Johnson’s Nine Grayscale Paintings – first stage of grayscale painting
Los Angeles based artist and writer Vincent Johnson
http://www.vincentjohnsonart.com
Vincent Johnson received his MFA from Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California 1997 and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Painting 1986. He started out as a student in Pratt’s painting department. He is a 2005 Creative Capital Grantee, and was nominated for the Baum: An Emerging American Photographer’s Award in 2004 and for the New Museum of Contemporary Arts Aldrich Art Award in 2007 and for the Art Matters grant in 2008, and in 2009 nominated for Foundation for Contemporary Art Fellowship, Los Angeles. In 2010 he was named a United States Artists project artist. His work has been reviewed in ArtForum, The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, Art in America, Art Slant and many other publications. His photographic works were most recently shown in the inaugural Pulse Fair Los Angeles. His most recent paintings were shown at the Beacon Arts Center in Los Angeles. He is currently one of five artists participating in Photography 2013 at Another Year in LA gallery in West Hollywood, California through March 6, 2013. He created a new collage for acclaimed The Bearden Project exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem, 2011-2012.

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