Yayoi and Me

http://www.gadgetgrid.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/iida-yayoi-kusama.jpg
 
Before Yoko Ono there was Yayoi Kusama, a performance and conceptual artist for whom ego and hubris knew no bounds. When I was seventeen (the innocent “art director” of the fledgling Screw magazine), I used to field regular calls from Kusama, who wanted to give us her wares for publication. In almost incomprehensible broken English, she’d ask if I’d publish photographs of one or more of her many art orgies.
 
Kusama, a polka dot fanatic, painted them on scores of naked men and women who would then adorn masks of  Fidel Castro, Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, and wear police or nurse’s hats. She’d have them pose for photos in public places (like Central Park) while engaging in orgiastic gymnastics. Often she would strike a deadpan pose in the shots too (detail from a 1968 Screw centerfold, bottom).
 
A few years ago, much to my surprise, I found a bunch of catalogs of Kusama’s art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Actually, surprise is an understatement. It was That Kusama!!?? After all, when I knew her, she was a purveyor of what we once affectionately called soft porn (she also made soft sculptures of potato-like things). Little did I dream she would be heralded as a major avant garde artist who, in 2006 received the Japanese National Lifetime Achievement Award. In November 2008,
her 1959 painting No. 2 was auctioned by Christie’s New York
for more than $5.7 million, the second highest bid ever earned by a
living female artist. (Marlene Dumas is first.)
 
Now a new film, I Love ME, “captures Kusama’s creative process as she diligently works to
complete her series of 50 large monochrome drawings,” says the website New People Artist Series. “As her work comes
to life, one can witness the essence of her art as it wells up in the
conflict between life, death, and love; sometimes quietly and sometimes
just the opposite.” It is hilarious. I wouldn’t have guessed! For more Kusama films go here
 
KUSAMA
 

 

CATEGORIES
Daily Heller, Imprint: Print Magazine's Design Blog

About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes a weekly column for The Atlantic online and is the "Visuals" Columnist for the New York Times Book Review. He is also the author of over 160 books on design and visual culture. And he is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.

3 thoughts on “Yayoi and Me

COMMENT