It's been a while since we last discussed a contemporary artist on here.
So let's dive in to the work of someone you should definitely know about.
If you're lucky you may already be familiar with the work of Yayoi Kusama, Queen of painting dots. Many people know of her or her work because of a recent piece which received much publicity and attention; Obliteration Room (see image below). The piece is relational and is activated by viewers covering an empty white room with colorful round stickers. It's visually exciting, fun and engaging for anyone who partakes in it. By giving the viewers a part in the piece Kusama has created a memorable and aesthetic experience for all who see this piece.
Kusama was born in 1929 in Japan and started creating art at an early age. Coming from a very traditional family, Kusama was discouraged from pursuing art. Despite her family's disapproval she continued to fill sketchbooks, create paintings and make art with whatever she could find. Her determination and persistence to create is incredibly inspiring.
She started to gain recognition for her work within Japan but knew that she could not find greater success unless she went to America. So in 1957 she set off for New York city.
Kusama arrived in New York just as Pop Art was taking off. She started to experiment with different art forms such as sculpture, installation, happenings as well as fashion.
She was inspired by anti-war movements and organized demonstrations and other activities.
Obliteration Room at Seattle Art Museum from artsy.net
Part of why I love and am inspired by Kusama is because she has used one very simple shape consistently in her work, yet it never gets old or boring because she is always innovative in its usage. However using a circle repetitively is not a random choice for Kusama. She has talked about how her repetitive use of circles comes from translating her hallucinations into artwork. She has also talked openly about her struggles with mental illness and how her work has allowed her to cope with these issues, and how they have deeply informed her art practice. From about 1977 until the present Kusama has lived in a psychiatric ward in Tokyo. She continues to make work for about 9 hrs every day and has showed no sign of slowing down even though today she's now in her eighties.
Infinity Mirrors at Seattle Art Museum from artsy.net
Though Kusama was around for many of the important art movements from surrealism, minimalism, pop art, environmental art, fluxus, action and performance art she has surpassed all of them. She made a name for herself in a male dominated art world and continues to create works that are boundless and inspiring to everyone who sees them. Her persistence, determination and commitment to making is remarkable.
If you want to know more about Yayoi Kusama I would highly recommend reading her memoir "Infinity Net". Here is a beautiful quote from it:
“All of my works are steps on my journey, a struggle for truth that I have waged with pen, canvas, and materials. Overhead is a distant, radiant star, and the more I stretch to reach it, the further it recedes. But by the power of my spirit and my single-hearted pursuit of the path, I have clawed my way through the labyrinthine confusion of the world of people in an unstinting effort to approach even one step closer to the realm of the soul.”