Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese artist and writer whose work is characterized by an interest in her thematic interest in psychedelic colors, repetition, and pattern. Born in Japan into an upper-middle-class family, Kusama started creating art at an early age, going on to study Nihonga painting in Kyoto in 1948. She had started to paint using polka dots and nets as motifs around age ten. Frustrated with this distinctly Japanese style, she became more interested in the European and American avant-garde and in 1957 she moved to the US, settling down in New York City where she produced a series of paintings influenced by the Abstract Expressionist movement and exhibiting with the NO! art artists. Switching to sculpture and installation, Kusama exhibited together with artists such as Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and George Segal during the early 1960s, where she became associated with the pop art movement.
watercolor on paper, 26 x 21 inches, signed
In 1973, Kusama moved back to her native Japan, where she found the art scene far more conservative than that in New York. She became an art dealer but her business folded after several years, and after experiencing psychiatric problems, she voluntarily admitted herself to a hospital in 1997 for the rest of her life. From here, she continued to produce artwork and launched a literary career by publishing several novels, a poetry collection and an autobiography. Kusama's work is based in conceptual art and shares some attributes with feminism, minimalism, surrealism, Art Brut, pop art, and abstract expressionism, and is infused with autobiographical, psychological, and sexual content. Major retrospectives of her work have been held at the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and Tate Modern, whilst in 2008 Christies New York sold a work by her for $5.1 million, a record for a living female artist.
This early work on paper shows her exploration of themes that have become a trademark of her style.