Yayoi Kusama

As Wikipedia would put it, 'her work shows some attributes of feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop and abstract expressionism, but she describes herself as an 'obsessive artist'... She has long struggled with mental illness'. Another choice narratives describe her as 'aided by a self-ironic narcissism yet devastated by an obsessive sensitivity'; this from an exhibition listing at the Galeria Civica in Modena, where the suspect quality of the English demonstrated by 'ensconced in the artistic ferment of New York, she took an active role in the happenings for peace in Vietnam' is rife but not instantly obvious due to the florid interpretative language.

Kusama herself could be sensitively described as a 'character' - her highly eccentric style of dress, mirroring her art, has transformed her from a kind of Japanese
Björk in the 60s to the rather gender-ambiguous clown on the cover of this month's Art Review.



The listing from
Kunsthaus Zürich, where one of her pieces - The Passing of Winter - was shown as part of the Expanded Eye exhibition, comments on the labyrinthine theme of the work in the exhibition; 'trasformata in un divertente labirinto', as Galeria Civica puts it. This might well be the most credible way of describing the impact of her installation work, with its disorientating, chaotic uniformity; the infinite variety in the size and proportion of the shapes distorts perception, creating a surreal dream-like ambience. Less a House of Leaves than a house of dotty psychedelia, substituting high impact for winding subtlety, but exceptionally memorable nonetheless.

The other credible way, heavily implied by other critics in less basic terminology, is the woman clearly has issues with dots. Lots and lots of dots. She apparently suffers from hallucinations of dots, and thus - rather logically, and yet clearly some reasonable distance from actual logic - covers things with...yes, dots.

But yes, the woman likes dots. See many, many more dots at her official website, YayoiKusama.jp, the Galeria Civica website and the PBase photo gallery of the Dot Obssession exhibit. There is also an impressive and slightly less abrasive (though equally dot-infested) site on the making of a documentary on the artist, Kusama: Princess of Polka Dots. An overenthusiastic Spanish person also keeps a very devoted blog following her work on Blogspot, and Image-Googling Kusama turns up an impressive selection of high-resolution pictures of her works.

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