A documentary in the works looks to capture the incredible career of an 83-year-old Japanese eccentric.
Yayoi Kusama, known for her innovative soft-sculpture, immersive, polka-dotted experiences, is among Japan's most revered living artists. With art that strides the abstract, cute, and bizarre, this 83-year-, orange-wigged living doll is the consummate avant gardist. She exists in a self-contained bubble of spacy illusions and ephemeral visions, and for the past 38 years has lived voluntarily in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital across the street from her painting studio. Frequent exhibitions at MoMA and the Whitney, prestigious gallery shows, mountains of published monographs, and scores of fashion products bearing her imprimatur attest to her surprising popularity. Last February, the Tate Modern in London opened a major retrospective, now in its final month, that testifies to her colossal art-world appeal.
I came to know Kusama in 1968. But to me, then, she was simply a kook. I was the 17-year-old rookie art director of Screw, an underground sex paper that was a part of the late-'60s sexual revolution. That's where I fielded almost daily phone calls from Kusama, who was aggressively hawking photos of the orgiastic happenings she had choreographed. You see, she was a prodigious orchestrator of gaggles of naked hippies, some wearing masks of Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, covered in polka dots and scampering in undulating piles of potato-shaped soft sculptures (and on one occasion dangling on the Alice in Wonderland monument in Central Park). Kusama routinely appeared in these photographs as ringmaster, wearing a dot-encrusted leotard.