In Infinity Nets (HIWO), Yayoi Kusama has woven an intricate, lace-like web in paint. The delicate veil of painted swoops and swirls that sweep across the surface extend to all edges of the canvas, suggesting the continuation of the net into the space beyond the painting. Constantly moving between opacity and transparency to an undulating, hypnotic effect, the painting offers the illusion of movement. Kusama describes the inspiration behind her Infinity Net series as the hallucinatory visions the artist has experience since the age of 10 during which various patterns appear on everything within her field of vision. “When I was a child, one day I was walking in the field, then all of a sudden, the sky became bright over the mountains, and I saw clearly the very image I was about to paint appear in the sky. I also saw violets, which I was painting, multiply to cover the doors, windows and even my body….I immediately transferred the idea onto a canvas” (Y. Kusama, quoted in “Damien Hirst Questions Yayoi Kusama, Across the Water, May, 1998,” Kusama: Now, exh. cat., Robert Miller Gallery, New York, 1998, p. 15). Infinity Nets (HIWO) attempts to recreate this experiences for others. As the critic Robert Nickas stated, "You don't merely look upon her paintings, you immerse yourself within them" (R. Nickas, Yayoi Kusama, exh. cat., Gagosian Gallery, New York, p. 88).
No two marks are the same here. The artist made a conscious effort to concentrate on each tiny moment in the painting to ensure that all marks are distinct. This exacting and meditative, even obsessive, working method insists upon the full attention. The result is a net that transfixes the viewer’s gaze, capturing us in the painting’s rhythmic pulse and making visible the invisible cosmic forces that surround and connect us. In the subtle, shifting surfaces of the Infinity Nets, Kusama evokes a transcendental space that lies beyond the limits of the human imagination. Suggesting the vastness of the cosmos and the infinitesimal forms of cells or atoms, the complex matrix of swirls and dots stands as the ultimate cipher for the incomprehensible dimensions of infinity.
Kusama first began making her Infinity Nets upon her arrival in New York in the 1960s, and it was paintings such as these, in combination with hypnotic site-specific installations and daring performances that won her international critical acclaim. Her Infinity Net paintings, in particular, encompassed many of the movements that were emerging in the rapidly changing New York art world. Though initially born as an elegant riposte to the painterly gesturalism that dominated the New York art scene at that time, the cosmic sublimity of these mesmeric compositions positioned Kusama as heir to the Abstract Expressionist practices of Jackson Pollock and Barnett Newman. Although Kusama desired to break free from Abstract Expressionism's aesthetic, she still incorporated the all-over style into her own work, commonly covering the entire surface of the canvas, and later entire objects and rooms.
With their systematized, logic-driven structures and repetitive, almost serial forms, Kusama’s Infinity Nets also anticipated the direction that Conceptual artists, like Sol LeWitt would take. In the New York of her own time, Kusama forged a unique path in her work that inspired her contemporaries, like the Minimalists. As Donald Judd observed, "[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 as quoted by L. Zelevansky, 'Driving Image: Yayoi Kusama in New York,' Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958-1968, Los Angeles, 1998, p. 12). In the 1960s internationally, Kusama’s Infinity Nets would be first shown alongside the work of artists including Yves Klein, Lucio Fontana, and Mark Rothko, all artists who saw the canvas as a vehicle for interacting with transcendence and other planes of reality. Over time, the swoops and swirls of Kusama’s paintings desired to break free from the canvas to cover the floors, walls, ceilings and objects in a room, making the artist important to the development of installation art. Kusama stated in 1964, "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" (Y. Kusama, quoted in Yayoi Kusama, p. 103).
Throughout her fifty-year career, Kusama has been a major force internationally. She represented Japan in both the 1966 and 1993 Venice Biennales. Her work has also been exhibited in numerous museums including the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, The National Museum of Modern Art, Toyko, Centre Pompidou, Paris, and Museo Centro de Arte, Madrid. In 2012-2013 Kusama was also the subject of a major international retrospective that was organized by Tate Modern, London, which then traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.