Yayoi Kusama’s art fully emerged in a big way when she moved from Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, to New York in 1959. Despite the obstacles — she suffered from mental problems and was an unknown Japanese female artist in a milieu dominated by white male artists and critics — by the second half of the 1960s, Kusama had made her way to the forefront of New York’s avant-garde scene. She had even become a worthy rival to Andy Warhol for public notoriety.

The current exhibition at The Watari Museum of Contemporary Art showcases some of the work created at the peak of Kusama’s career in New York. Original posters, flyers, photographs and videos of events make up the bulk of this show, though there are a few artworks, including the grand installation “Dots Obsession” (2011). Though “Dots Obsession” is worth a visit on its own merits, the tangible artworks are not the main story here: This show is about the art that happened off the gallery walls, and in the streets and parks of New York City.

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