Yayoi Kusama covered the entire surface of this canvas
with hundreds of air mail stickers
, the labels that you put on the envelope when you are going to mail a letter overseas. In the early 1960s when she made this work, Kusama was living in New York City. Writing letters was the only practical way she could communicate with her friends and family in her homeland of Japan—before cell phones, email, or live chat! At that time, the glue on the air mail stickers had to be licked on the back so that they would stick to an envelope (or a canvas). They were not self-adhesive as they are today.
In Air Mail Stickers
, the tightly packed, overlapping red, white, and blue stickers do not form a perfect grid. They make patterns of wavering verticals
with the words “via air mail” repeated over and over. The result is a plane
or surface that seems to extend beyond the edges of the work to create a dizzying effect.