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Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929) <BR>
Untitled (Infinity Nets) <BR>
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)
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Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)

Untitled (Infinity Nets)

Details
Yayoi Kusama (b. 1929)
Untitled (Infinity Nets)
signed and dated 'YAYOI KUSAMA 1972' (on the stretcher)
oil on canvas
42 x 36 1/8 in. (106.7 x 91.8 cm.)
Painted in 1972.
Provenance
Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner, 1972
Exhibited
New York, Paula Cooper Gallery, Yayoi Kusama: The 1950s and 1960s: Paintings, Sculpture, Works on Paper, May-June 1996.

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Robert Manley
Robert Manley

Lot Essay

Untitled (Infinity Nets)'s delicate and lyrical brushstrokes make this 1972 canvas a quintessential example of Yayoi Kusama's unique body of work. Her Infinity Nets series profoundly impacted her fellow New York artists during the 1960s, bridging Abstract Expressionism's fluid brushwork and Minimalism's more distilled aesthetic. She painted the present work during her final year in New York before she returned to her native Japan its loops and swirls encapsulating the intense, energetic brushwork that made this period the most important of her career.
Kusama painted areas of deep blue, then rendered tantalizing loops in subtle shades of white, pink and gold, recalling the fresh bursts of cherry blossom that mark spring's arrival all over Japan. This highly significant event in the Japanese calendar is celebrated throughout the nation as people shake off the vestiges of winter and begin the countdown to summer. We can see this excitement in each of the circles that Kusama executes on the canvas. She combines a dusky ground, varied pink hues and tiny yellow accents to mimic the petals and yellow stamene of the cherry blossom as they burst into life, giving off palpable vitality. Yet while this work evokes spring, it does not depict it figuratively. Kusama traces the roots of her unique style back to her traumatic childhood, when she experienced a specific series of hallucinations at the age of ten. As she recounted in 1975, "One day I was looking at the red flower patterns of the tablecloth on the table, and when I was looking up I saw the same pattern covering the ceiling, the windows and the walls, and finally all over the room, my body and the universe" (Y. Kusama, quoted in Yayoi Kusama, London, 2000, p. 35). To achieve this effect, she applies semi-transparent layers of white, coral and pink to a deep blue under-layer, and then adds specks of yellow in each loop's center. Kusama normally works with the canvas placed flat on a tabletop or other surface and works very close to the surface, making it impossible to see the whole composition while she works, and also impossible to alter it in response to the work she's doing. By working in this way, she forces herself to abandon any attempt to control the whole of the picture plane or construct it out of parts.

Although Kusama returned to Japan the year after this work was painted, Untitled (Infinity Nets) provides lasting evidence of her influence on the New York art scene. She concisely encompassed many of the movements in the rapidly changing New York art world, and for this many of her contemporaries admired her. Kusama's art defied arbitrary categorization, providing tranquility and a new perspective, which rose above the cacophony of excited art world voices that epitomized that period of New York art. As Donald Judd, then known as an influential critic rather than a sculptor, said, her work "transcends the question of whether [the art] is Oriental or American. Although it is something of both, certainly of such Americans as Rothko, Still and Newman, it is not at all a synthesis and is thoroughly independent" (D. Judd, quoted in L. Zelevansky, "Driving Image: Yayoi Kusama in New York," Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958-1968, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 12).

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