“I convert the energy of life into the dots of the universe”, are the words which Kusama uses to sum up her artistic approach, to express her feeling in painting what has by now become her trademark: a series of colored balls spread over each object.
Kusama was born in Matsumoto in 1929 and grew up in a family with a complex situation: the mother was against her artistic production to the extent of destroying any work she made. This triggered in the young Yayoi the need to work rapidly and frenziedly, as well as the desire to really become an artist and to move to New York to crown her dream, beginning there a new stage of her life around 1957.
In the ‘sixties she obtained her first successes. Kusama and her art were esteemed and appreciated by the public and the great artists of the time. In those years she dedicated herself to provocative performances with naked women and men in explicitly sexual attitudes, and she developed her Infinity nets, canvases or objects decorated with nets which widen out into infinity via colored particles composed with an inconstant rhythm.
Health problems took her back to Japan in 1973, but alas there the situation was decidedly the opposite of the American one. Her art was neither appreciated nor even recognized. This period caused her distress and depression, to the extent that in the late ‘70s she entered Seiwa psychiatric hospital, where she still lives but which she leaves each day to go and paint in her studio in Shinjuku.
Here she continues obsessively to produce her “nets” and has begun to compose surreal text and poetry. Kusama’s mature style is characterized by the obsessive repetition of pois, the reflection of a hallucinated vision whereby she bursts out of the canvas and invades space in a viral way, producing environmental installations of an effectively spectacular nature, as in Infinity Rooms, rooms in which mirrors multiply the balls to infinity.
Only in 1989 did the Japanese artist manage to re-emerge on the art scene thanks to several retrospectives, including that at the Center of International Contemporary Arts of New York. In 1993 she represented Japan at the Venice Biennale, creating a room teeming with mirrors with sculptures of pumpkins inside them which symbolize her alter ego.
In 2012 she began an important collaboration with Marc Jacobs, art director of Louis Vuitton, designing a fashion collection where her famous pois ended up on bags, shoes, dresses and accessories.
Yayoi Kusama has now obtained great success with both the public and the market. Her highest sale was achieved with a 1960 painting, auctioned at the exceptional figure of 7.1 million dollars.