“As an obsessional artist I fear everything I see. At one time, I dreaded everything I was making.”—Kusama interviewed in BOMB magazine in 1999.
You may have seen some of the lovely, now-viral shots of renowned Japanese Pop/Minimalist/AbEx artist Yayoi Kusama’s Obliteration Room installation at the Brisbane Gallery of Modern Art, in which children are handed colored polka dots stickers at the museum’s entrance with which to deface a pure-white-painted living-room.
Whimsical as those images are, it’s important to remember that Kusama’s pattern-obsessed work reflects her career of art-as-therapy in response to a life marked by childhood abuse early on and mental illness throughout. As someone who’s both seen a measure of fame in New York City’s underground art scene in the ‘60s that rivaled Warhol’s, and lived in a mental institution in Japan for the past 34 years, Kusama strikes a remarkable figure. The raising of her profile in the US has been a long time coming for the 83-year-old.
Heather Lenz’s forthcoming documentary, Kusama: Princess of Polka Dots, promises to more fully flesh out the story of Japan’s most popular living artist. The film’s slated for a summer 2012 release to coincide with the arrival of a Kusama retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Here’s experimental filmmaker Jud Yalkut’s adorably freaky 1967 short film, Kusama’s Self Obliteration, which finds the artist doing art on just about anything, including canvases, cats, water, and naked bods at a happening. Needless to say, this one’s Not Safe For Work. Note the opaque and jangled psychedelic soundtrack by Brooklyn duo CIA Change…