Japanese sculptor, painter, writer, installation artist and performance artist Yayoi Kusama is one of my favorite living artists, because she is just so darn rad. This week, Yayoi makes her Modern Art Monday debut. Welcome, talented lady!
In the early 1960s Kusama began to cover items such as ladders, shoes and chairs with white phallic protrusions made of stuffed sewn cloth. With their humorous, sexualized transformation of domestic objects beginning with furniture, but spreading eventually to clothing, shoes and even kitchen equipment, Kusama’s Accumulations represent a remarkably prescient example of contemporary art that wrestles with issues of gender. This aspect of the Accumulations shocked male contemporary art critics of the time who — too embarrassed to acknowledge their explicit expression of female rage at male domination — described them with anodyne art-speak phrases like “the semantics of mono-surfacing.” Even today, a work like Accumulation No. 1 is much more disturbing to look at than the Infinity Net paintings with which it was often exhibited. Equally recognizable as a signature work by Kusama, Accumulation No. 1 is arguably more revolutionary in form and challenging in content than its painterly counterparts.
Accumulation No. 1, purchased by the Museum of Modern Art in 2012, is now part of its permanent collection. See this fun work in the museum’s fourth-floor Painting and Sculpture Galleries.