21 February – 29 April 2001

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama (born 1929) came to prominence in the New York art world of the 1960s. The works on paper that comprise this exhibition reveal the advanced, independent nature of Kusama's art.

Produced in the isolation of post-war Japan, Kusama's early drawings articulate motifs that anticipate the mesmerizing formal concerns of her later installation art. Kusama drew relentlessly. With near obsessive-compulsive excess, she addressed her feelings of "depersonalization" by producing volumes of drawings - by one account as many as 50 works on paper each day. When she first came to America in 1957, she brought with her approximately 2000 drawings. Some of these works entered the collection of Richard Castellane, the New York gallery owner who held three important Kusama exhibitions - in 1964, 1965 and 1966. Castellane offered Kusama great artistic liberty. In each of the exhibitions she mounted in his gallery, she developed increasingly challenging environmental installations where objects and surfaces were quite literally covered in repeating motifs like those found in her drawings. Kusama fully elaborated her artistic vision, which centered around her consuming dot and net motifs, in a 1967 film entitled Kusama's Self-Obliteration.

In the early 1970s Kusama returned to Japan, retreating from the New York and European art worlds that had embraced her. Throughout the 1990s, however, she has regained a position of prominence and is now considered an iconic artistic figure of her generation. This exhibition presents the early work of an important artist who journeyed between two cultures, affecting the course of modern art in both Japan and America.
Art Gallery of York University | Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street | Toronto ON M3J 1P3 | agyu [at]