Marthe Armitage Working

Marthe Armitage began printing linocut wallpaper in the 1960's with three babies at home. She was inspired to make her first design, "Angelica," while pushing a stroller along the Chiswick riverbank.  

"Angelica"

"Angelica"

"Gardeners" installed in Marthe's sitting room, along with a lamp designed by her late husband, featuring "Solomon's Seal" on the shade. A new version of this lamp is being produced by her grandson Joe. Both photos of Marthe's home from Bible of British Taste. 

"Gardeners" installed in Marthe's sitting room, along with a lamp designed by her late husband, featuring "Solomon's Seal" on the shade. A new version of this lamp is being produced by her grandson Joe. Both photos of Marthe's home from Bible of British Taste

Now in her mid-80's, Marthe still prints her wallpapers herself with the help of her daughter Joanna Broadhurst. They are available through Hamilton Weston Wallpapers & Design and made to order with your own color specifications, though her preference is for soft greens, blues, dull blacks and ochres.

One of two linocut blocks for "Chestnut."

One of two linocut blocks for "Chestnut."

"Chestnut" on the press.

"Chestnut" on the press.

Marthe hand printing "Chestnut" the sore back way.

Marthe hand printing "Chestnut" the sore back way.

A bathroom in Dinder House with "Chestnut" installed. 

A bathroom in Dinder House with "Chestnut" installed. 

Martha on her staircase. Then a lucky little girl's bedroom with the same wallpaper, in blue, picked out by her mom, Miranda Brooks. 

Martha on her staircase. Then a lucky little girl's bedroom with the same wallpaper, in blue, picked out by her mom, Miranda Brooks

A wonderful short film, Back to the Drawing Board, by Sue Haycock in which Marthe explains how to design for repeat and the virtues of doing so on paper. 

Kansai Yamamoto for David Bowie

Like everyone, I'm sad about David Bowie's passing and grateful for the time he spent on earth. The glory of his life as a totality is the deal, how he evolved all the changes over time. But also like most everyone, if I had to pick a favorite period, it has to be Ziggy Stardust Had anyone before or since looked better on stage? Therefore I did a little obsessive digging on Kansai Yamamoto, the designer behind those Ziggy Stardust wonderful costumes, that in my sadness I am happy to share with you. 

In 1965, David Jones became David Bowie and began to study Japanese noh and kabuki theater with performance artist Lindsay Kemp at the London Dance Center. The kabuki traditions of onnagatamale actors specializing in playing women's rolesand hikinukia quick costume change when a character removes his disguises to reveal his true identityintrigued burgeoning Bowie, who of course incorporated androgyny and layers of meaningful costume in his performances to come.

Photographed by Clive Arrowsmith for Vogue UK, October 1971

Photographed by Clive Arrowsmith for Vogue UK, October 1971

Kansai Yamamoto in London

Meanwhile in Tokyo, the designer Kansai Yamamoto was developing his outré visual lexicon, drawing inspiration from geisha culture and kabuki. In May 1971, he became the first Japanese designer to present a collection abroad at the Great Gear Trading Company on the King’s Road in London. Bowie caught this show just as he was solidifying his Ziggy Stardust alter-ego, combining aspects of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed by way of Mars. It was obviously the right thing for him see at the right time. Bowie reached out to Yamamoto's stylist Yasuko Takahashi, who hooked him up with some (womenswear) pieces for his upcoming tour. 

Its wasn't until later on in 1971 that Yamamoto met Bowie face to face backstage at Radio City Music Hall after watching him perform in clothing from the London presentation. They hit it off straight away and Bowie asked Yamamoto to design all the costumes for his 1973 Aladdin Sane tour. Thus we can thank Kansai Yamamoto, an actual "some cat from Japan," for much that we have to be grateful for in Ziggy. 

The “Space Samurai” padded satin jumpsuit riffs on split-skirt hakama worn by Japanese samuri.

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Photographs by Masayoshi Sukita

Photographs by Masayoshi Sukita

The "Toyko Pop" vinyl bodysuit, in addition to being an unforgettable interpretation of hakama, is the best tear away garment ever made. 

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita

A close second in terms of best-ever tear-away garment might be this white cape with kanji that spells out “David Bowie” phonetically and loosely translates as, “Fiery vomiting and venting in a menacing manner,” so I've read. Then with a quick yank at the snaps, Bowie would reveal the fierce "Woodland Creatures" tiny jumpsuit donned beneath: 

At the Hammersmith Odeon where Bowie announced that he was retiring Ziggy Stardust.

At the Hammersmith Odeon where Bowie announced that he was retiring Ziggy Stardust.

A side note: Kate Moss got to wear this very tiny jumpsuit to accept the 2014 Brit Award for Best Male Solo Artist on behalf of Bowie. Cheating with the tights but OKayyyyyyyyy.... 

Kate Moss Wearing David Bowie's Woodland Creatures Jumpsuit by Kansai Yamamoto

Back to 1973, please!

Yamamoto was already making knit unitards before he began working with Bowie, with graphic placements that referenced full body yakuza tattoos. 

But his collaboration with Bowie was necessary to take the knit bodysuit with strategic graphic placements lewk to the other place. For example, perhaps it was Bowie, not Yamamoto, who brought asymmetry, glitter yarn, and upholstered ankle and wrist donuts to the table. It seems fair that they share attribution for this moment of creative genius. 

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita

Look at them enjoying their fitting, so sweet with Yamamoto so adorable in the matching mock turtleneck!

Still enjoying, I think.

This most spacemanish outfit also looks like a jumpsuit, but no....

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita

Photograph by Masayoshi Sukita

On Mick Ronson's guitar

On Mick Ronson's guitar

The finishing touch was hair and makeup. Yamamoto designed the electric red 'do in homage to the red lion dance wig used in kabuki. And famed onnagata Tamasaburo Bando V was conscripted to teach Bowie how to apply kabuki makeup.  

After Ziggy Stardust came The Thin White Duke, with a lewk taken from Bowie's character in The Man Who Fell to Earth- not Kansai Yamamoto's territory. But Yamamoto carried on with his work in fashion and beyond. For example, fascinatingly, in 2010 he designed the Skyliner train that connects Narita Airport with central Tokyo. It's no Ziggy Stardust, but I'd take it.  

 

Soft Sculpture Animal Toys

Bass. Caught this one at a rental house in Maine.

Bass. Caught this one at a rental house in Maine.

Swordfish. Same rental.

Swordfish. Same rental.

Armadillo. Same Maine collector-landlord.

Armadillo. Same Maine collector-landlord.

Gator. Atop my couch. I can inform that this large-version alligator was designed by one of my textile heroes Will Stokes Jr. in 1979 and continues to be produced in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. Hand silkscreen print, pigment on cotton, and polyfill. Available here.  

Gator. Atop my couch. I can inform that this large-version alligator was designed by one of my textile heroes Will Stokes Jr. in 1979 and continues to be produced in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia. Hand silkscreen print, pigment on cotton, and polyfill. Available here.  

Babes of Marimekko: VUOKKO NURMESNIEMI

Portrait of Vuokko by Juliana Harkki.

Portrait of Vuokko by Juliana Harkki.

HER WORK
for Marimekko is what is best known by most. In 1953, the year she joined the company, she designed the stripe “Piccolo.” The print is comprised of one or two passes of stripes that can overlap to form a third color. This approach takes brilliant advantage of large-scale silkscreen printing, which she helped Marimekko to develop (and we now do, too). Smart minimalism and flexibility of design have been at the center of her work since.

Vuokko’s stripes were an immediate sensation. In 1956, Marimekko introduced the iconic Jokapoika (“Everyboy”) shirt as their first garment for men. Over the years, Vuokko has designed more than 300 colorways for “Piccolo” to be used for the shirts, from her original Mediterranean-inspired palette to black on white and everything in between. 

On the right here is Armi Ratia, the founder of Marimekko, in the late 1960s, out playing the model in one of the zillions of Jokapoika striped shirts she made. She, like many ladies, had no trouble borrowing from the men’s department. Though “Piccolo” was also used for garments intended for women, such as the Kivijalkamekko dress, designed by Vuokko and shown here with Ilmari Tapiovaara’s egg sculpture in 1957.

Bouffanted visitors to scorched mediterranean locales who still always pack an umbrella, grumpy teenagers also expecting rain, kiddos–everybody!–got a great striped something.

Here is Vuokko completing an installation of Marimekko goods at a gallery in Stockholm, in heels, in 1958. Bang story!

Vuokko designed other patterns and shapes for Marimekko as well, including–I was surprised to learn–Iloinen takki, that dress with patch pockets that Marimekko first made in 1960 and still makes and adult women still wear. Vuokko intended the wee pockets to hold surprise gifts for the wearer’s beau, and that’s about the extent of adult sexiness I can imagine associated with this garment.

However, her signature spare, geometric style were evident from the beginning, as you can see in her split color wool blouse of 1956 and her Ritsa apron with “Raituli” stripes of 1959. And now, these are  questionably sexy body obsfucating garments I can stand behind, absolutely.

In 1964, Vuokko left Marimekko to found her own company, Vuokko Oy, which she ran until 1988 and still runs a version of today. Left to her own devices, the body obliteration + spare geometry were turned up to full force and the vibe got super hot!

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HER HOME
and office/studio in Helsinki was designed from top to bottom in 1970 by her late husband Antii Nurmesniemi (who also designed, for example, the Wärtsilä coffee pot for Arabia). It is open except for the bedroom with big views of the sea. Four mezzanines, including the swimming pool level which I have not seen a picture of but would love to see a picture of, stacks of Vuokko’s floor pillows and a heated floor = heavenplace.

HER DEAL
(those glasses)

Portrait with plants by Anna Huovinen.

Portrait with plants by Anna Huovinen.

RESOURCES
-We stock the Marimekko book at the shop, and it includes a bunch of images and information about Vuokko and Marimekko overall. It is, hands-down, the book we consult most when trying to forge through a new design.

Apartamento ran a wonderful profile of Vuokko in Issue #07, featuring an interview with her and shots from her home, including the first two I posted in the series, and “I got rid of most of the seams and pleats. The Japanese say ‘Vuokko set women free.’ See, my design always starts from the fabric. I want to give the patterns a lot of solid surface, which often affects the shape of the final dress, loosening it up” and other gems. Track it down!

-Ebay.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Travis Meinolf

TRAVIS HOME/STUDIO

Yeah yeah yeah! Travis and his wife Iris and their boy Louis are back in the Bay and we are hosting a TRAVIS BLANKET SHOW this Thursday, July 17th. Please come check it out! In the meantime, here are some shots of all of them at home, seeming to make blankets in the way he does actually make blankets.

Travis inherited his big loom from his grandma, who took it over from her best friend. It’s a 1920’s model from the Reed Loom Company. On it here is a blanket that Travis is working on for the show–it has a cotton warp that was dyed in Tessa Watson‘s indigo vat at the Berkeley Art Museum during The Possible show and Sally Fox’s wool that Travis works into homespun.

The homespun is spun on this spinner. Louis knows what to do. That top shot is really just a floss for that Bauhaus Archive poster that’s so great (they’re offering a similar one now, not as great but still really nice).

The other loom that Travis is working on these days is one of four of the collapsible models he made for The Possible, much like the ones he’s made and worked on publicly for years. AND YOU CAN TOO!!! Rigged up here is another plain weave blanket that will be part of the show at the shop.

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And here is a look at Thursday’s showstopper, which is also an extension of the work Travis made at the big Berkeley show. Thousands of visitors to The Possible worked on the floor looms he set up there. Their weavings were stitched together to produce reams of fabric, which Travis cut up so that swatches could be included in an edition of artists books. Here is the husk of the original, stitched on a backing fabric to make yet another blanket.

Travis will be working on one of his collapsible floor looms at the opening, and he’ll be coming by to keep working over the course of the show. Please come by yourself, meet Travis, and enjoy the show!

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

RIP Peacenik

His campaign statement declared: “I want it to be understood that we are a bunch of tree-huggers and mystics and peaceniks. My main occupations are Hippy Priest, Spiritual Revolutionary, Cannabis Advocate, shade tree mechanic, cultural engineer, tractor driver and community starter. I also love science fiction.”

THANK YOU STEPHEN GASKIN

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Gertrud & Otto Natzler

Photo by Lotte Nossaman.

Photo by Lotte Nossaman.

Yahrzeit Cup (1964), then Gertrud and Otto working in their summer studio at the Brandeis Institute in Santa Susana, California, where they spent the summers of 1956 to 1960 as artists-in-residence. Then then an earthenware bowl (1955).

1958

1958

Over four decades of collaboration, Gertrud threw 25,000+ pots. Otto glazed and fired them, developing 2,000+ complimentary glazes. They were both self-taught.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Beatrice Wood Working

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“I feel this is a great privilege and blessing to live the way I do now in beauty, near wonderful mountains, with many friends. And freedom to do as I wish, which happens to be pottery. And chasing men, though they don’t know it.”

Mixing glazes in 1950 and teaching students at the Happy Valley School in Ojai, California in 1960

Photo of reclining Beato by Carole Tapolian, 1996.

This last saffron-hued photo of Beatrice by Jim Hair, 1985.

“And I say, women who have diamonds—it can’t touch the joy and excitement of opening a kiln.”

Beatrice Wood! Major Arcana artistic and whole life hero, of course! Duchamp buddy, sister-friend to Anaïs Nin, wearer of sarees, chronic flirt, in her mid-life became a luster glaze master following an adult ed ceramic class at the Hollywood High School, and lived to tell the tale of her 105 years in her indispensable memoir, I Shock Myself: The Autobiography of Beatrice Wood.

I took her book home to Virginia one year during the Christmas holiday and pretty much refused to leave the couch until I got through it. I probably missed out on the largest and most elaborately adorned sugar cookies of the season, but it was worth it!

Also a nice biography to be found at the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts website—a center I have long-wished to visit but have not yet. Next time I go to check in on our corner region at the Ojai Rancho Inn, I hope to check it out. And I hope that all happens soon!

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Mah-Jong

Mah-Jong – Sweden – Socialism – Feminism – Clothes – Mah-Jong – Sweden – Socialism – Feminism – Clothes – Mah-Jong

A shot from the 1966 Mah-Jong catalog. Photo by Carl-Johan De Geer.

A shot from the 1966 Mah-Jong catalog. Photo by Carl-Johan De Geer.

These shots were all taken by Carl Johan De Geer in 1966 ad 1967, featuring his then-wife Marie-Louise and their buddies.

A group of Mah-Jong fabrics, one on Marie-Louise. I’m always a big fan of that hardware-free purse strap connection solution you see on the chevron print at the lower right.

A shot from the 1972 Mah-Jong catalog. Photograph by Johanna Hald. Takes all Swedish kinds!

A shot from the 1972 Mah-Jong catalog. Photograph by Johanna Hald. Takes all Swedish kinds!

Mah-Jong Manifesto
1966-1976

1.  The same design is made year after year.

2.  The materials are natural.

3.  The clothes are available for all ages and all sizes.

4.  Clothes ought to be beautiful.

5.  The clothes should be manufactured in Sweden.

Read more about it in Google Translate-ese on the website of one of the founders, Kristina Torsson (that’s her in the kerchief with the cuties in quilted snowsuits), who has kept up her own line Vamlingbolaget. There is also a book in Swedish! Looks great.

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Mart

Pleased to meet Mart—short for Martha—outside Thrift Town on Mission Street. A lifelong San Franciscan, Mart just celebrated her 91st birthday last week. Each year, in honor of that great event, she and her granddaughter budget $500 for sleeping bags, warm sweaters, and scarves that they purchase at thrift stores and hand out to homeless people they come across. If they didn’t set a buying limit, they would spend all of their money this way.

Lavender is obviously the thing for Mart. Though I really couldn’t imagine limiting my lifestyle palette to a single color, it is probably the number one style approach that I support for others. Mart told me that she has a 4-year old great-granddaughter who was on the all-lavender path for a time, but she has since switched to pink.

Mart bought her 1973 Ghia new. Its lavender color is custom and its name is Pal. She’s put over 600,000 miles on Pal and Pal still runs great!

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog.

Carl Johan De Geer

Marie-Louise & Carl Johan De Geer
Co-proprietors of the Fontessa fabric shop in Stockholm
xoxo

“Ängelens bild” as a dress, wallpaper at in installation in 1990, and a bedspread in a photo taken by Carl Johan:  “Here’s what it looked like at our house, so much patterns as possible. Marie-Louise De Geer behind the newspaper.”

“Palmer” in the studio, in an retail scenario, and straight up.

“Monster” yardage in the Boo-Hooray booth at the Los Angeles Art Book Fair this year, then a shot of the fabric up close. Carl Johan designed “Monster” for 10-Gruppen in 1986. Here he is lounging on the box printed daybed with the rest of the hero posse in 1972:

Another shot of Carl Johan’s prints at the recent Boo-Hooray booth, then two looks at “Haren” (1970) and two looks at “Duvor” (1972).

Råttas barndom… (1968) and Råttas barndom… installed on a cabinet in Carl Johan’s kitchen, 1975.

Carl Johan wearing an outstanding Paco Rabanne jacket in 1967, then two looks at “Ananas” (1973).

A group of notebooks featuring Carl Johan’s vintage designs, made by Pocket Shop a few years ago, that I can’t get my hands on though I tried and a dazzling pond scene // bunnies running // tiger in the reeds print.

“Flygfiskar” (1972) in two colorways. Designed for 10-Gruppen and then cut up, I think, for the bedroom wall you see in“Mother, Father, Child” and covering a couch in a third colorway amid the sea collection of prints at the 10-Gruppen shop at Gamla Brogatan, Stockholm, in 1975. Purrrrrrrrr. This might be my favorite pattern. Hard to choose, though.

The man looks great in his own shirt designs! In 1967. Then “Den europeiska drömmen ( The European Dream)” (2004). Then“Marie-Louise, Carl-Johan, Ines Svensson…. dinner at La Coupole Paris”.

I first learned of Carl Johan De Geer’s work indirectly through 10-Gruppen, a Swedish design firm for whom he designed several prints, including my all-time favorite, “Flygfiskar,” in the early 1970s. I’ve had a picture postcard of the Flygfiskar couch up on my wall for years, hoping one day to hit on that level of loosness, scale, and joy in one of my own print designs. But I didn’t know which of group of ten had designed it….

Then I ran smack in to a whole booth devoted to Carl Johan’s photography and textiles at the LA Art Book Fair last month, and man! What a world to discover! Carl Johan Louis De Geer af Finspång—reared in a castle, flag burner, fabric designer, photographer, filmmaker, handsome man about town, radical, really unafraid of clashing. So rad.

A retrospective of his work, including film, photography, textile, painting, literature, graphics and stage design, is opening in April at Färgfabriken in Stockholm and running through the summer. Gotta get there!

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Marie-Louise Ekman

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Striptease, 1973

Striptease, 1973

Dam och elefant-gata III, 2008

Dam och elefant-gata III, 2008

Home at an Ape II, 1974

Home at an Ape II, 1974

Tufted Picture (meaning, actually was made into a small carpet :0)

Tufted Picture (meaning, actually was made into a small carpet :0)

Marie-Louise shot by Carl John De Geer, A trip with the then Madame De Geer around 1966

Marie-Louise shot by Carl John De Geer, A trip with the then Madame De Geer around 1966

A still from her 1979 film Barnförbjudet starring Bibi Andersson as “The Mother”

A still from her 1979 film Barnförbjudet starring Bibi Andersson as “The Mother”

Starring in her own film Hallo Baby, 1976

Starring in her own film Hallo Baby, 1976

Marie-Louise’s set for a 2012 production of Giselle, Acts I and II

Marie-Louise’s set for a 2012 production of Giselle, Acts I and II

Marie-Louise Ekman, née Fuchs née De Geer née Bergenstråhle is currently the Managing Director of the Swedish Royal Dramatic Theatre. Before that, she made films, modeled, conspired with her ex-husband Carl Johan, and obviously she continues to be a great painter and designer. There is a book available!!!

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Yayoi Kusama Working

KUSAMA! Top Multiple Portrait of Kusama (1966) photograph by Eiko Hosoe, then Yayoi tripping out in Woodstock, then having her way with some strawberry jam, then sprawled out at Kusama’s Peep Show or Endless Love Show (1966), then witching about in her pumpkin mirror room (1991).

Making one of these lady working posts on Yayoi is pretty much a cheater’s task. I’ve come across a couple of studio shots where she is making paintings in the late 50’s–

In her early New York days, Yayoi worked continuously on dot field paintings like these, which she called infinity nets. Infinity Net is also the name of her autobiography, which is definitely worth a read. And when you read it, you find out that she thinks of this work as “psychosomatic,” exploring themes of eternity, nature, emptiness, hallucination, obsession, compulsion, accumulation, and repetition, among others. In doing so, she hopes to confront and obliterate her deepest anxieties.

These early studio snaps are rare ones. Yayoi was very much in control of how she was portrayed producing her work. Most of the many, many images of Yayoi working are not mere documentation, but collaborative works between herself and the photographer that aim to achieve the same artistic goal as her infinity nets and accumulation installations: she is absorbed into the art she makes. A lot of her work was performance art, so that makes sense. Such is also the case with this embellished print she made for the Dutch magazine TIQ in 1966—

Another way she accomplished this absorption was by covering all the actual surfaces around her in the same patterns she was making on canvas, first by applying paint on objects—

Driving Image (1959-64)

Driving Image (1959-64)

Then paint on her body in a painted environment—

“…a polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colorful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots become movement… Polka dots are a way to infinity.”

Then she took to the park and the streets—

Horse Play in Woodstock, a happening that happened in 1967

Horse Play in Woodstock, a happening that happened in 1967

Where she got to painting many many many many many other bodies—

At the New School for Social Research (1970)

At the New School for Social Research (1970)

At the Love-In-Festival in Central Park (1968)

At the Love-In-Festival in Central Park (1968)

Over the course of the 60’s, especially at the height of the Vietnam War, Yayoi staged over 200 “Happenings” in public spaces around New York City and abroad. The performances included body painting, fashion shows, orgies, and anti-war demonstrations in which Yayoi would cover the bodies of participants with her signatures polka dots.

Balcony photo by Herve Gloaguen

Balcony photo by Herve Gloaguen

In  An Open Letter to My Hero, Richard M. Nixon, she wrote “Our earth is like one little polka dot, among millions of other celestial bodies, one orb full of hatred and strife amid the peaceful, silent spheres. Let’s you and I change all that and make this world a new Garden of Eden…. You can’t eradicate violence by using more violence.”

Anti-war Naked Happening, New York, 1968

Anti-war Naked Happening, New York, 1968

Anatomic Explosion on Wall Street (1968)

Anatomic Explosion on Wall Street (1968)

“The money made with this stock is enabling the war to continue. We protest this cruel, greedy instrument of the war establishment.”

Alice in Wonderland performance in Central Park, August 11, 1968

Alice in Wonderland performance in Central Park, August 11, 1968

Body painting for Yayoi’s film Self Obliteration

Body painting for Yayoi’s film Self Obliteration

Self Obliteration (1967) in three parts:

Another obliteration.

Another obliteration.

She also worked the obliteration theme with reflective globes—

Narcissus Garden, Kusama’s contribution to the 1966 Venice Biennale.

Narcissus Garden, Kusama’s contribution to the 1966 Venice Biennale.

And, of course, with phallic soft sculpture forms all over everything—

Golden Shoes, 1965

Golden Shoes, 1965

Accumulation furniture, 1964

Accumulation furniture, 1964

Accumulation No. 1 (1962). Photo by Rudolph Burkhardt.

Accumulation No. 1 (1962). Photo by Rudolph Burkhardt.

Collage (c. 1966, no longer extant) with photograph by Hal Reiff of Kusama reclining on Accumulation No. 2

Collage (c. 1966, no longer extant) with photograph by Hal Reiff of Kusama reclining on Accumulation No. 2

With Accumulation No.2 at her studio in New York (1962)

With Accumulation No.2 at her studio in New York (1962)

Eikoh Hosoe and Yayoi Kusama, 1964

Eikoh Hosoe and Yayoi Kusama, 1964

And polka dotted phallic shape soft sculptured covering everything! What Kusama called “a sublime, miraculous field of phalluses.”—

With Accumulation pieces at her studio in New York (c.1963-64)

With Accumulation pieces at her studio in New York (c.1963-64)

Two installation views of Infinity Mirror Room–Phalli’s Field (or Floor Show) at the Castellane Gallery, New York (1965). Photograph by Eiko Hosoe.

Two installation views of Infinity Mirror Room–Phalli’s Field (or Floor Show) at the Castellane Gallery, New York (1965). Photograph by Eiko Hosoe.

When I read her memoir, I was surprised to learn that Yayoi’s phallus fixation was born of her terror of sex and disgust with wieners, a fear that has endured for her. Previously, I guess I believed her whole free love image and many penii suggested that we confront sexuality and embrace sex. And maybe that is what she suggests for the rest of us. But for herself, not so much…..

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With her Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show installation at the Gertrude Stein Gallery, New York in 1963 and later at a retrospective in 2011.

With her Aggregation: One Thousand Boats Show installation at the Gertrude Stein Gallery, New York in 1963 and later at a retrospective in 2011.

Yayoi also had a straight up fashion line, Kusama Fashion Company Ltd., that sold in straight up stores, like Bloomingdales. She also had her own boutique and staged fashion shows all over Europe. Her clothing continued on the polka dot theme and also explored her dual interests in obliteration by obscuring the body beneath giant experimental muu-muus and peace and freedom through odd moments of nudity, a theme that emerged from her Happenings.

So good, right! No smiling.

Years later in 2012, you may know, she launched a collaboration with Louis Vuitton. She was 82 years old at the time and still not smiling. But shaper than ever! And now always with the red wig, hurrah! I feel like this late, extra-fancy work achieves her longstanding goal of exploring eroticism, voyeurism, and sensuality through psychedelic polka-dotted pattern.

By this time, Yayoi had been living for nearly 40 years as a voluntarily inpatient at a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo, where she still lives. She maintains a studio nearby where she works every day.

Yayoi has said that would like to live to be at least 300 years old. As long as she has the energy, she will keep working.

Photo by Jason Schmidt

Photo by Jason Schmidt

P.S. Several of the most fantastic images I found for this post I found on The Looniverse site, and nowhere else. Check that spot out!

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog

Omotesando Koffee

I just polished off my take away stash of Omotesando Koffee beans this morning. Grumpy-nostalgic. When we were in Tokyo this September, Lili and I had the startling good fortune to stay in an Airbnb dynamic directly around the corner from this jewel which, dispite the aroma, took us days to notice because we were so distracted by the grass field across the way. The coffee was superb, as was the one perfect snack—baked custard cubes. Missing Tokyo jewels and hot coffee on a hot day.

Kathleen Whitaker x G&G Boob Earrings

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Solid 14k gold Boob Earrings, inspired by “Boobs”, made in Los Angeles by Kathleen Whitaker. BUY

This shot, with the amazing—accidental?—boob trinity if you count the upper arm nipple is a collaboration between me, Kathleen’s earring, and a self-portrait included in Self-Exposures: A Workbook in Photographic Self-Portraiture by Naomi Weissman & Debra Haimerdinger (1979).

This post originally appeared on the Gravel & Gold blog