Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Yayoi Kusama, or blogging about weird art in the library

My silence in the past couple of weeks follows a familiar pattern. I do some public philosophizing (see Devin's CPA sum-up), feel tired afterwards, and retreat into weird art for a bit. During this predictable decompression phase, a friend brought Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama to my attention. Kusama, now in her early 80s, was something of a sensation in the New York scene in the 1960s - nude happenings, vaguely anarchistic communiques, etc. Her claim to fame is her obsessive reproduction of "infinity net" patterns, polka dots, and phallic protuberances, as well as her pioneering work in the concept of interactive installation. Kusama is also known for her mental illness (she has lived voluntarily in an asylum for decades, and claims that hallucination and obsession are her primary inspirations), as well as her single-minded attempts, pace Warhol, to use art as a platform for fame (or more accurately, to render the two indistinguishable). As distinct from practitioners of pop art, however, Kusama most of the time gives the impression of being totally, unabashedly serious. She claims that she is attempting to obliterate herself as well as the universe by covering it with the content of her hallucinations - namely, the aforementioned patterns, dots and phalli. Depending on how one looks at it, it's more complicated than this. The ecstatic merging is either a self-immolation or an imposition of the self (its desires, its obsessions) onto the universe. Over the course of the career, Kusama gives the impression of both.


Those interested can check out Phaidon's (2000) coffee table book on Kusama. It blends interviews, essays, primary texts by the artist, and a variety of pieces from throughout her career.

1 comment:

Devin Zane Shaw said...

Your phrasing makes me think that you've seen the Pop Life exhibit at the National Gallery.