13

– Spring/Summer 2006

The Spell to Re-integrate the Self: Yayoi Kusama

Yuko Hasegawa

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room (Fire-flies on the Water), 2000, mixed media, 450 x 450 x 320cm, installation view. Courtesy of Yayoi Kusama Studio.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room (Fire-flies on the Water), 2000, mixed media, 450 x 450 x 320cm, installation view. Courtesy of Yayoi Kusama Studio.

Since the late 1990s, Yayoi Kusama has been the subject of a remarkable re-evaluation. This process began with a solo exhibition at New York's Museum of Modern Art in 1998 that, under the title 'Love Forever', focused on the time Kusama spent in New York City between 1958 and 1968.

It extended through to a survey exhibition at Le Consortium in Dijon in 2000 and several retrospectives in Japan, as well as her participation in many major international exhibitions. This increased visibility was matched by an equally increased interest in her work by the art market. The artist's pop installations incorporating elements of the radicalism and cuteness of the 1960s, and her documentary videos of 1960s performances - in which she addressed the audience directly disregarding the taboos of the time - have struck a chord with artists and critics, as well as with today's youth.

Kusama's career can be broken down into three distinct phases: her time spent in New York in the 1950s and 1960s; a period spent mostly in Japan from the mid-1970s until the 1980s; and her return to international attention from the late-1990s onwards. During the first period, although she was recognised and highly regarded as an artist who broke new ground in various fields, Kusama failed to establish herself within the context of European and American modernism. And while the work she produced in Japan throughout the 1980s had elements that were so typically postmodern that they could perhaps be described as perfect examples of the style, this latter work still retained many of the clichés of the 1960s (due, perhaps, to the fact that it was postmodern avant la lettre),

Footnotes
  1. Yayoi Kusama, Sumire Kyohaku (Violet Obsession), Tokyo: Sakuhin-sha, 1998, pp.94-95

  2. Damien Hirst and Yayoi Kusama, in Laura Huptman (ed.), Yayoi Kusama, London: Phaidon Press, 2000, p.140

  3. These words are often repeated by Kusama in her texts and interviews.

  4. Lynn Zelevansky, 'Driving Image: Yayoi Kusama in New York', in Love Forever Yayoi Kusama 1958-1968, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1998, p.14