cover image Kusama: A Graphic Biography

Kusama: A Graphic Biography

Elisa Macellari, trans. from the Italian by Edward Fortes. Laurence King, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-786277-169

Macellari’s splendid biography of Yayoi Kusama brings the artist’s neurotic obsessions to life. Growing up in a small Japanese town, Kusama is plagued by unsupportive parents, severe anxiety, and hallucinations. Art is her only and constant solace. She discovers Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings and their “magical power” and corresponds with the artist, who encourages her to come to New York. Kusama does so in 1957 and eventually connects with N.Y.C.’s Warhol-led avant-garde. Headlines about the naked performance pieces she directs find their way back to Japan, and after her fraught psychological state intensifies, she checks into a mental hospital and is nearly forgotten by the fickle art world. Other events in Kusama’s life, including her chaste but emotionally intimate affair with artist Joseph Cornell and her eventual return to international prominence, are documented. Throughout, Macellari privileges storytelling through imagery over cramming in biographical details, employing a color palette of vivid red, turquoise, coral, and lilac, and a geometric array that includes circles, squares, and the neat curves of traditional Japanese paintings. Macellari’s comics interpret and mirror Kusama’s art in a way that honors it but doesn’t imitate it. This satisfying glimpse into Kusama’s world reveals a place both tidy and trippy. [em](Sept.) [/em]