July 18, 2023
Artist Yayoi Kusama's Prolific Patterns & Colors Span Decades

Known for her use of polka dots, vibrant color, and kaleidoscopic images, artist Yayoi Kusama is experiencing a booming renaissance, late in her career. The 94-year-old’s repertoire spans work across many mediums (including performance art, film, and sculpture, to name a few), but, as a very young child, Kusama began with painting. Visual and aural hallucinations sparked her entrance into the field; she saw polka-dots everywhere, on everything, and began to paint her alternate reality as a form of self-exploration. Ever since, Kusama has maintained that “’artwork is an expression of [her] life, particularly of [her] mental illness.’”

Moving from Japan to New York City in 1958, she became an integral part of America’s psychedelic art movement, utilizing repetitive patterns of colorful, cosmic shapes that stretched into infinity. Challenging the boundaries of time and space, one of Kusama’s first installations combined mirrors, light, and red polka-dots in a mind-bending perceptual illusion. The so called “infinity mirror room” would become a hallmark of Kusama’s; she would go on to create more than 20 distinct installations of the same type. With themes of anti-war and free-love, Kusama’s work began to incorporate showings of radical performance art, one of which appeared on the front page of the New York Daily News.

In 1975 Kusama moved back to Japan, and in 1977, of her own volition, she began living in a mental health facility, where she remains to this day. Kusama has continued to produce a host of revelatory pieces, adding fiction and poetry to her artistic canon. Today, her work seems to be popping up around the globe, from Tokyo to London to Hong Kong. In New York City alone, Kusama’s creations are abound.

At David Zwirner Galleries in lower Manhattan, one of Kusama’s largest exhibitions to date has been unveiled. I Spend Each Day Embracing Flowers features three fantastical flower sculptures, covered in Kusama’s characteristic polka-dots and bright colors: petals of red, pink, and orange bloom upwards, while roots of green, yellow, and blue swirl along the floor. In another building, three oversized pumpkin structures (a favorite of Kusama’s) reach toward the ceiling, creating a sea of yellow and black polka-dots. In yet another building, 36 of Kusama’s paintings can be viewed, most coming from her recent collection, Every Day I Pray for Love; one of the artist’s famed infinity mirror rooms can also be experienced. The exhibition is on display through July 21st.

At the end of last year, an extensive reconstruction of Grand Central Madison was completed. M.T.A. Arts & Design selected a number of artistic works, ranging from photography to 3-D animation, to enliven the Long Island Railroad terminal. Among them was a 120-foot-long mosaic by Kusama, entitled A Message of Love, Directly from My Heart unto the Universe. The piece bursts with saturated color, lined with both micro- and macro-level shapes: celestial planets swirl while amoebae float alongside them. One might even spot a familiar pumpkin or two. Kusama has stated that the train station inspired her to represent many different entities coming and going; “’it could be you, it could be me,’” she said.

Kusama-fans can now bring the artist’s work home. In her second major collaboration with Louis Vuitton, Kusama has designed more than 450 pieces for the fashion brand. Handbags, perfume bottles, and clothing alike are adorned with polka-dots, speckled flowers, and planetary faces. In celebration of the collection’s launch, Louis Vuitton set up two installations heralding Kusama’s work. In the meatpacking district, a pop-up store featured black infinity dots stretching endlessly across walls, ceilings, and floors bathed in solid yellow. The display also paid homage to Kusama’s infinity rooms, with reflective mirror-balls floating around the space. In their Fifth Avenue location, Louis Vuitton installed an automated robot of Kusama, which painted rainbow polka-dots on the windowpane. Both the “For Her” and “For Him” Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama collections are available to peruse now.

Yayoi Kusama’s work represents a cosmic celebration of life. Her pieces are never without a vibrant sense of dynamism, achieved through an unabashed use of vivid color. Inspired by Kusama’s work, we’ve gathered together some of Ultrafabrics’ brightest, most energetic shades, here:


533-8269 Brisa Yukon Gold 
740-25143 Lino Bosporous

740-82593 Lino Carrot 
744-14453 Montage Vivid Punch 
291-1176 Ultraleather Red 
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