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Infinity-Nets (KMNG)

Infinity-Nets (KMNG)
signed, titled, dated and inscribed 'INFINITY-NETS YAYOI KUSAMA 2012 KMNG' (on the reverse)
acrylic on canvas
63 3/4 x 63 3/4 in. (162 x 162 cm.)
Painted in 2012
Gagosian Gallery.
Acquired from the above by the late owner.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

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Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

Dynamic yet meditative, Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity-Nets (KMNG) is an emblem of the artist’s masterful engagement with formal abstraction. In this rare black-on-black example, undulating loops suffuse the shadowy expanse with kinetic energy that seems to rush beyond the edges of the composition: “The entire canvas would be occupied by [a] monochromatic net,” the artist wrote. “This endless repetition caused a kind of dizzy, empty, hypnotic feeling” (Y. Kusama quoted in: L. Hoptman, Yayoi Kusama, London, 2000, p. 103). The mysterious black nets on black ground are anything but flat; rather, the tempered use of color emphasizes the automatist movement of Kusama’s brushstroke. On close scrutiny, the repeating circular patterns fold and unfold, swell and contract. By imbuing the nets with an energy that emits from the canvas, Kusama offers the viewer an intimate experience of the infinite.

Painted in 2012, the same year as the artist’s career-defining Tate Modern retrospective, the present work represents a mature return to meditations on the infinite that track the artist’s prodigious oeuvre: “Well, you might say I came under the spell of repetition and aggregation. My nets grew beyond myself and beyond the canvases I was covering with them. They began to cover the walls, the ceiling, and finally the whole universe,” Kusama said. (Ibid. p. 103). Such themes of layer and repetition are not only evident within the internal framework of the present painting but moreover the artist’s larger praxis.

Kusama describes sessions where she would paint ceaselessly for forty to fifty hours: “I felt as if I were driving on the highways or carried on an [endless] conveyor belt…to my death…This is like continuing to drink thousands of cups of coffee or eating thousands of feet of macaroni. This is to continue to desire and to escape all sorts of feelings and visions until the end of my days whether I want to or not…” (Ibid. p. 37). The act of painting becomes not only a mode of creative production but moreover an exercise of expressive necessity. For her, painting is catharsis. While painting may occur in these hypnotic, trance-like states, the artist still retains a rigorous level of formalism. Loop after loop, she meticulously constructs a rhythmic sea of nets that refuses to be bound by the limits of the square canvas. Still, by painting with close proximity to the work’s surface, Kusama leaves the culminating patterns of the composition to intuition.

After forging the beginnings of her career in Japan, Kusama set her eyes on the United States, believing that the “future lay in New York” (Y. Kusama, quoted in F. Morris, Yayoi Kusama, London, 2012, np). Becoming an active member of the New York avant-garde, Kusama’s practice expanded to sculpture, installation, performance, and criticism. Through all of her endeavors in alternative media, though, painting has always remained central to the artist’s work.

Beginning in 1958, Kusama’s net series continues to remain one of her most recognizable bodies of work. Spanning over six decades, the commanding compositions both refer to and disrupt the categories of the art historical canon. In their scale and gestural nature, the works are in the tradition of the New York School of which Kusama was a part; but in their monochromatic stillness, the canvasses appear to presciently embody the restrained aesthetic of 60s Minimalism. “Yayoi Kusama is an original painter,” sculptor and then-critic Donald Judd wrote in response to an early show of Kusama’s Infinity Nets at Brata Gallery in 1959 (D. Judd as quoted by L. Zelevansky, ‘Driving Image: Yayoi Kusama in New York,’ Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958-1968, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 12). “Both complex and simple,” Judd wrote that Kusama’s Infinity Nets refute classification on geographic or stylistic terms: “Although it is something of…such Americans as Rothko, Still and Newman, [the art] is not at all a synthesis and is thoroughly independent” (Ibid).

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