Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Yayoi Kusama

Most of Kusama's work is shown at one of the Gagosian galleries in Manhattan, although I've seen some pieces spread around at other places.

We live in a universe which had a beginning and which will have a death. And, we live in a universe for which the simple questions: "How could something come from nothing?" or "How could something always have been?" cannot be answered. We live in a constant state of decay and our lives are a constant struggle for self-justification and a search for meaning and validation in a dream-like, grim and often ridiculous state.

Confronted with this type of life, Yayoi Kusama has created huge canvases of ever-repeating patterns. Often polka-dots. Sometimes flowers. In past pieces she is sometimes seen naked and covered in polka dots as well.

The concept of infinite repetition is the center-piece of her work. As a child she suffered brutal treatment at the hands of her mother and visions of the infinite appeared to her as a response to this suffering. Therefore, the essential element of this artist's identity can be understood as an ordered and systematic response to cruelty emerging from the pain itself. Pain becomes the source of a vision of perfection and the infinite that can only cover the universe, not change it.

Perhaps this is why the artist has said repeatedly that her art is an attempt at self obliteration. It is also as if the infinity of polka-dots has a therapeutic value. Systems of thought and art have a softening effect on the realities of brutality and absurdity. In the very creation of the infinity of flowers and dots there is a loss of self, a covering of the component parts of experience by an ideal vision of life that destroys the essence of life for a pattern engendered by the harsher aspects of life.

This is also why the artists work is often performative in nature. The process involved is essential to the work, not the final product. The artist David Judd once even went so far as to say that a painting by Kusama is a result of her work and not a work in itself. One of Kusama's canvases is the result of her embrace of the visions generated through her pain and experience, the essence of the artist's identity and art.

This also helps to explain why Kusama's spaces in galleries, especially in NYC from 58 to 68, were totally defined by art. It was her desire to create entire environments of repetitive patterns because this is the type of life we surround ourselves with. We insulate ourselves in our visionary and often idealistic patterns and attempt to structure a world that will correspond to such patterns. From Marat through Marx to the present day these patterns are tattooed onto our realities and forge our identities into pleasant experiences.

Kusama now lives in a mental hospital in Tokyo. She has stated that if it were not for art she would have killed herself long ago. This is a revealing statement from an artist who has implied that all of our identities are visions of repetitive patterns of pleasant polka-dots and flowers in the face of unanswerable yet simple questions.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.