Friday, January 2, 2015

Yayoi Kusama, Lingering Dream

Yayoi Kusama, Lingering Dream, 1949
53.75 x 59.75

Yayoi Kusama (b.1929) is an extremely influential Japanese artist.  She has worked in a wide variety of media, including paintingsculpture, performance art, and both indoor and outdoor installation.  Kusama has been an important voice in global avant-garde movements, and influenced pop art and minimalism, including Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg.  Much of Kusama's early work, including her famed polka dots, which she has included in everything from early performance art to collaborations with Louis Vuitton, was drawn from hallucinations she had in her youth.  After initial success in Japan, Kusama moved to the United States in 1957. She first spent time in Seattle, but after correspondence with Georgia O'Keeffe, Kusama moved to New York.  Kusama quickly established herself in the New York art scene and was recognized as an important member of the avant-garde movement.  Despite her critical success and growing reputation, she did not have financial success.  Kusama also suffered from ill health and was repeatedly hospitalized for overwork.  As the 1960s progressed, Kusama devoted more attention to performance art, which soon turned into demonstrations.  Often protesting the Vietnam War, Kusama chose to most public venues possible and staged pieces that usually involved nudity (of herself and other performers) and sexually explicit discourse.  In 1973 Kusama returned to Japan due to her health and began to focus on writing rather than visual art.  After her departure, she was largely forgotten in the United States, with those she influenced often failing to cite her impact. However in recent years her importance has been acknowledged and her legacy restored; Kusama is now recognized as one of the most important artists to come out of Japan.  Lingering Dream was painted when Kusama was still at art school in Kyoto.  Like most Japanese people at the time, the devastation of World War II loomed large in her mind.  War-torn landscapes can be seen repeatedly in Kusama's early works, as can flowers and vegetables–images associated with growth.  However this is not an image of floral abundance, but of death and decay.  The flowers fall and break, withering away on the dying ground.  With its desolate landscape and these finely rendered broken flowers, the emotional and psychological intensity of this painting demonstrate the great depth of feeling with which Kusama approached her work, a trait that is present throughout Kusama's oeuvre.

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