Up Close with Infinity Nets V.A.T.

Yayoi Kusama next to an Infinity Net painting in her studio in New York, 1961
Photo and Art © Yayoi Kusama

Lit as if from within by a neon glow, the mesmerizing pattern of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Nets V.A.T. pulsates and dances with rhythmic motion. Exemplary of Kusama’s iconic brand of abstraction, which established her extraordinary position in the Western art world, the present work consists of an endless maze of intricately undulating black lines atop an electrifying yellow ground. Executed circa 1979, Infinity Nets V.A.T. testifies to her extraordinary innovation and indomitable spirit. Speaking in terms particularly evocative of the present work, one of Kusama's first gallerists writes: “These paintings leave one groping for a predecessor – there is none. Neither the compelling rhythms of Tobey, nor the intricate tracery of Pollock are precursors of the hypnotic painting of Kusama. Small forms flow into each other, grow and diminish, with an undulating rhythm so deeply tuned to nature that the viewer, as he lets himself become fully aware of the painting, experiences the same serenity and suppressed excitement that he feels in watching changing cloud formations, moving shadows of sun through leaves, water ripples and shadow patterns in the water below…There is a deep rhythm in these paintings: compelling tensions are developed, sustained, and resolved." (Beatrice Perry, "Yayoi Kusama: The Paintings" (Press Release), Gres Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1960, n.p.)

Lucio Fontana, Concetto Spaziale, La Fine di Dio, 1964
The Rachofsky Collection, Dallas. Art © 2020 Lucio Fontana Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome

With a process of creation both meditative and obsessive, Infinity Nets V.A.T. demonstrates Kusama’s critical response to the emotionally and semiotically charged brushstrokes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. In works such as the present, Kusama radically redefines the nature of abstract painting in bold defiance of gestural abstraction, meting out the masochistic and muscular gesture of movements past into dainty increments to forge a delicate aesthetic entirely her own. To create the present work, Kusama moved her brush across the canvas with precise, minute flicks of the wrist, carefully weaving the complex skein of overlapping loops—each loop and each arc indexical to her very being. While it retains the pared down aesthetic of Minimalist painting, the present work lacks the movement’s characteristically harsh, impersonal tone: here, Kusama invites viewers to experience a taste of the hallucinatory visions of oscillating, kaleidoscopic patterns that plague her psyche. Exuding a spell-biding aura of abstract specificity, Infinity Nets V.A.T. achieves an infinitely self-perpetuating momentum that engulfs and overwhelms even as it entrances and enthralls.