Donald Judd, October 1959, cited in Exh. Cat., Los Angeles County Museum of Art (and travelling), Love Forever: Yayoi Kusama, 1958 – 1968, 1998, p. 12
“My room, my body, the entire universe was filled with [patterns], my self was eliminated, and I had returned and been reduced to the infinity of eternal time and the absolute of space. This was not an illusion but reality”
Expanding outward in an undulating lattice of loops and curls, Yayoi Kusama’s NETS-OBSESSION [OPR] is both meditative and ferocious. Initially conceptualized after the artist moved from Japan to Manhattan in the late 1950s, the artist’s series of Infinity Nets sprouted from a deep-seated ambition to establish herself in the New York art world. Resplendent with endlessly repeating strokes, the works in the series are a dual manifestation and coping mechanism for the artist’s obsessive-compulsive disorder and hallucinations brought on by a psychological condition. Labored over in 2003, NETS-OBSESSION [OPR] continues the legacy of this iconic series, employing the same repetitive and hypnotic mark making that characterizes Kusama’s oeuvre, and functioning as a conceptual nexus of obsession and the unconscious, ultimately culminating in a canvas of peak visual and psychological intensity.
In NETS-OBSESSION [OPR], Kusama’s restricted palette imparts a sense of ethereality onto the canvas; the work is vaporous, texturally anomalous and full of reflected light. The artist’s innumerable brushstrokes pile onto one another, culminating in some parts of the canvas in mounds of expressive impasto, and congealing into radiating planes of pigment in others. Each dab of paint is laid with a punctilious devotion to the act of mark making, consuming the canvas in a field of texture. Pushing the concept of the all over composition, the overriding doctrine of mid-century abstraction, to its logical extreme, NETS-OBSESSION [OPR] is “[w]ithout composition-without beginning, end or center” (The artist quoted in Laura Hoptman “A Reckoning,” in Ed. Laura Hoptman, Yayoi Kusama, London 2000, p. 103).
Kusama’s Infinity Nets inhabit a psychological realm nestled between the premeditation of grand artistic concept and the automatism of surrealism. The undulating, almost topographical surface of the work hypnotically meanders across the extent of the picture plane, mirroring the process in which it is created, which in the words of Kusama causes a “dizzy, empty, hypnotic feeling” (ibid). Absorptive and dizzyingly ornate, NETS-OBSESSION [OPR] inspires this same entrancement through opticality, each mark coming together to render a field of texture that fundamentally alters the space in which the work is installed.
Executed in the mature period of the artist’s career, NETS-OBSESSION [OPR] is painted in acrylic pigment rather than oil. Kusama transitioned to this water-soluble medium in the 1980s, which built on her foundational training in traditional Japanese watercolor. The faster drying time of acrylic speaks to the artist’s relentless endurance and will to paint, cultivated over years of unending artmaking. This technical development speaks to the artist’s will to enact her vision with an efficiency and ferocity that reflects her sense of purpose and emotional investment in her body of work as a whole. What the artist puts into the work, the work gives back, dilating space and time, encouraging absorption, and sharing Kusama’s painterly virtuosity and singular conceptual vision with the world.
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