Those who’ve secured a ticket for Yayoi Kasuma’s Infinity Rooms exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art are in for a treat. The shows opened Saturday, 07/07/2018 and runs through Sunday, 09/30/2018. Kasuma first gained prominence in the 1960’s with the “Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field” exhibit at the Castellane Gallery (New York). Her ability to create vibrantly constructed environments that feature full-length mirrors, densely arranged polka-dotted objects and flickering LED lights is unmistakable. Kasuma’s mastery of immersive art by manipulating space and creating infinite reflections in solitary settings gives the visitor a personal experience. Her 66-year career, which has produced over 50,000 works, unofficially began with drawing polka dots at age 10 in Japan. Today, Yayoi is the highest-selling, living female artist and in 2017 her own dedicated museum opened in Tokyo.
Kasuma’s popularity skyrocketed in the 2010’s when her art became more commercial by launching a Louis Vuitton collaboration. Instagram’s birth and meteoric growth helped amplify her recognition. Kasuma’s work being participatory art bodes well in today Instagram’s crazed society, where she’s its most popular artist. Hundreds of thousands of images can be accessed from filtering on #yayoikusama, #Kusama and #InfiniteKusama. The exhibit’s individually timed viewings inhibit the perfect picture opportunity for art enthusiasts and millennials. Kasuma gets advertised by each artsy, selfie which features her work as the backdrop. In turn, this fuels her success along with the exhibit’s instant sell outs and hour-long lines.
Interesting Kasuma facts :
5. Her obsession with dots resulted from hallucinations she started experiencing as a kid.
“I call them my repetitive vision,” she says. “I still see them. [They] cover the canvas and grow on to the floor, the ceiling, chairs and tables. Then the polka dots move to the body, on to my clothes and into my spirit. It is an obsession.”
4. Kasuma suffers from mental illness and voluntary lives in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital. The nearby studio where she paints gives her a therapeutic outlet.
“I only slept two hours last night. When I get tired from making pictures, I find it really difficult to go to sleep. But it’s how I get away from my illness and escape the hallucinations. I call it psychosomatic art.”
3. Recurring themes of her work (aside from polka dots) are sex, nets and pumpkins.
2. In 1959, her paintings sold for $200 each. In 2018, they sell for $7m and up.
1. In 1966, Yayoi was the first woman to represent Japan at the 33rd Venice
One name artists are intriguing. Kasumi is a Cleveland based one, with original roots to Japan, whose background, story and rise as a globally recognized artist despite any formal education is interesting. As the product of a mother and father who had respective professions as a musician and rocket scientist, Kasumi attributes her love for the arts and an organically curated skill set to her parents. Shockwaves, a critically acclaimed experimental film as well as collaborations with Grandmaster Flash and DJ Spooky show her versatility in works which generally draw out abstract themes. Her imaginative and internationally respected work in film, video, music and live performance is supported by an extensive list of prestigious awards, grants and fellowships. Kasumi’s work recently shifted towards showcasing the rhythmic gestures and body language of iconic figures like Elvis, Rita Hayworth, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe.
“It all starts with a question,” she exclaims, when describing her artistic process. This mantra helps me simplify the complexity behind the making of an obscure Marilyn Monroe neck gesture, which she morphs into a beautifully fluid and colorful media clip. Kasumi calls this a “loop”, a definite motif seen in her work and one repeats to the point where one can’t tell the beginning from the end. She searches for the perfect movement from clips that exist in the public domain (Youtube and Archive.org) and through a technique described firsthand as “motion masking” she cuts it out with painstaking precision and multiplies the clip through a software interface all the way into a pattern that mimics the movement of an awesome wave. Her intentions as an artist help punctuate the originality of her work and for the sake of her brand she declares, “The language of my work are gestures.” Kasumi elaborates, “It’s these gestures and the communicative nature of body language that’s so strong and telling and maybe provide reason for why Elvis or James Dean became icons.” By knowing how an artist thinks I’m able to gain insight into the genuine curiosity that drives Kasumi’s creativity and this makes for a much more enjoyable experience in viewing her art than doing so uninformed.
A collection of impressive, video art works make up Kasumi’s “Perpetual Series”, is displayed in the lobby of the sleek and tallest skyscraper of Austria, DC Tower 1, in Vienna’s Donaucity. A number of the well known venues internationally where her works have been showcased include the Carnegie Hall, the Lincoln Center, the Württembergischen Kunstverein Stuttgart, the Cleveland Museum of Art, EMPAC (Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center), Unpainted Media Art Fair (Munich, Germany), Museum of Contemporary Art (Krakow, Poland), Itau Cultural Center (Sao Paulo). Kasumi revealed to me, “My biggest following is in Germany, where experimental art is very popular.” The fact that her film Breakdown, the 2010 Vimeo Remix Award Winner has 2,236,317 online total loads globally with thousands of views in France, Russia, Uzbekistan is testament to her art drawing global interest.
Breakdown (geographic stats)
From spending time in her studio where I’ve witnessed her process and the work done to create a number of these multimedia pieces, my amazement is from the reality of her techniques and skills as an artist being completely self taught. She’s resourceful and motivated to the point of using Youtube to practice and hone the skills relevant to any technique she’s eager to learn. In our conversation she hinted that her intentions were not to prove anyone wrong nor did she use those who viewed her background to lack legitimacy as any motivation. Kasumi simply loves making art and has stayed the course throughout her career by continuing to harness her inspirations. When prodded about the difficulties of being an artist, she alluded to the challenge of making money along with, “…being in abject solitude day in and day out.” From attaining a degree(s) and the connections made within that process, Kasumi thinks it would be easier to sell and exhibit her work saying, “Friends take care of their friends.”
Kasumi told me that her background of European, American and Japanese ancestry informs who she is as an artist. When I prodded her about the name “Kasumi” she didn’t seem interested in talking about it. I’m incredibly curious about how one can assume a one word name, curating a mystical identity such as hers and also, the point at which her surname ceased to exist. She did concede, ” ‘Kasumi’ is just symbolic of the fact that I’m at one with my work.”
Is it tough being creative?
“I have more ideas than I have time to do. Before I go to sleep every night I write down the things I want to get to the next day. Sometimes I get to them, sometimes I don’t. Those ideas inspire new ideas.” The phrase, “What if?” motivates her to constantly evolve her work and presents endless possibilities for making new art. “…What if I color this differently? What if I stagger this differently?”
She’s recently made a fruitful connection with someone that makes media players. Up until now Kasumi tells me, “there’s always been a little glitch somewhere in my loops.” This contact has created a player that will show her loops perfectly, and now her loops are “…frame accurate, down to the molecule.” This is an example of what she considers a very successful art/ technology collaboration. This breakthrough has allowed her to now make wall hanging pieces that are to her specifications and moving ahead she thinks it will drastically improve her work. The aforementioned Austrian skyscraper still has a 35 foot video wall (pictured directly below) where her work loops indefinitely. She’s on contract and in the process of making new work for that project. Also, this coming July her art will be featured in Chicago at the Catherine Edelman Gallery.
Kasumi’s art is worth checking out and I recommend looking at the great content on her website and facebook page. Kasumi’s path, which defies the requisite degrees to attain prestigiousness and relevancy in the art world is empowering. What turns some away from this industry is at times, the stodginess and condescending nature of gallery owners, artists and wealthy collectors. Kasumi has a way that undermines any of these stereotypes and the authentic method she makes art as well as the her no-nonsense personality is what I like most. If one wants to learn more about her in Cleveland, she’s recently been on display at the Transformer Station and Spaces Art Gallery.
The power of Twitter stems from its ability to output information on a global scale far quicker than any other media outlet. When looking at events like the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony and the 2016 Oscars, which generated 9.6 million mentions and 440,000 Tweets per minute respectively, shows just how a great of a tool it at times can be. The way Twitter can unite millions of people around these spectacles and allow for anyone to take part in the conversation who holds an interest in a common two or three hour event as it unfolds is spectacular. On the flip side Twitter at its low point is rooted in the fact that the nature of a singular tweet serves no greater purpose than the equivalent of a facebook status update (LeBron is working out with DWade, LeBron is Batman). Not only does following athletes or celebrities become an annoying routine, but just as bad is the wave of offline attention, analysis and ripple in the news cycle that’s created from the likes of a Lebron tweet.
In short, even if you aren’t on Twitter and don’t succumb to following celebrities you’ll still be subjected to the media coverage from their foolish behavior. Lebron has consistently tweeted some pretty stupid stuff in the past few weeks. Whether it’s a cryptic message directed at Kyrie Irving in lieu of Steven A’s report, a showing of desire to partner with fellow Olympic teammates, or his sidestepping the media in response to the fact he unfollowed the Cavs directly speaks to Twitter’s power to broadcast narcissistic behavior. The subsequent and consistent wave of news that always tends to follow stupid tweets of his like these show there’s less of a fallout, but more of a reward issued to temperamental superstars for the childish ways that they think. It’s probably painful for Lebron to witness the commanding nature in which Stephen Curry has dethroned him as the league’s best player. As I sat at a Cavs game with my brother last week I asked him what to make of all this Twitter nonsense. He decided that Lebron can’t stand all of the positive media attention Curry gets and to compensate for it, he tweets the most asinine of things. Anything short of Lebron delivering Cleveland a championship a ring I really can’t imagine following his Twitter account nor paying attention to his behavior on it.
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