(Matsumoto City, Nagano, 1929 - )
Born and raised in Japan, Yayoi Kusama came to New York in 1958 at age twenty-nine seeking greater artistic and personal freedom than was possible for a female avant-garde artist in her native country. Here and in Europe, Kusama achieved rapid critical, though not financial, success for her painting and sculpture. One of her earliest American champions was sculptor and critic Donald Judd, whose work is also in the museum’s collection. Kusama’s work was exhibited with that belonging to several different art movements including Pop, Op [Optical], Minimalist and Psychedelic art and the European groups Nul, Zero and the Nouveaux Réalistes. In the late 1960s, Kusama also gained a degree of notoriety for performances and light shows involving nudity and body painting.
For many years, Kusama has fought a continuing battle against mental illness; her art was the subject of psychiatric study as early as 1952. Some critics believe that her mental stresses result, at least in part, from her position as a female non-conformist in a male-dominated society, one that values consensus over individualism. This may also account for her long delay in receiving recognition in her own country. Kusama returned to Japan to live in 1973 and took up writing fiction, for which she won several awards. It was not until the 1980s that she was hailed as an important visual artist there. In 1993 Yayoi Kusama was selected to represent Japan at the prestigious Venice Biennale.