This work is accompanied with an artwork registration card issued by the artist's studio
Polka dots are a way to infinity. When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment. I become part of the eternal and we obliterate ourselves in love.
Infinity Flower Petals is a vast work of stunning complexity, radiant elegance and arresting monumental beauty. Executed in 1992, just before Kusama was chosen to participate in the 1993 Venice Biennale as the first artist to represent Japan as an individual, the triptych is an extremely rare and special work that combines three of the artist’s most iconic aesthetics – the polka dot; the distinctive tessellated web-like Infinity Net pattern that often appears in the background of her pumpkin paintings; and the motif of the flower as indicated in the title of the piece. The all-over mass of polka dots is woven within an infinite net of ‘petals’ – a combination that conjures up a singularly hypnotic optical effect and a mesmerizing sense of depth previously unseen in her traditional Infinity Nets. This particular amalgamation of the polka dot with the tessellated net is extremely rare, with this being one of only two instances and the only one rendered in a triptych. The vast mural-sized piece pulsates with its infinite undulations of intricately woven dots and nets, with the breaks between each of the three canvases constituting sublime breaths of pause that award structure, balance and composition to the all-over abstract pattern. Exquisite in detail and captivating in scale, Infinity Flower Petals evokes the microscopic in depicting the intricate individual petals, and the macroscopic in terms of size and repetition, conjuring up a sense of expansive infinity.
Kusama exhibited her first Infinity Net paintings in New York in 1959. Using white paint on glazed black background and employing the minimal repeated gesture of a single touch of the brush, Kusama’s revolutionary paintings responded critically to the emotionally and semiotically charged brushstrokes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Albeit a relative novice to oil painting at the time, Kusama was able to at once firmly grasp and radically redefine the medium in bold defiance of gestural abstraction, meting out the ecstatic masculine gesture into dainty increments and forging a sophisticated feminine aesthetics of obsession and repetition. Replacing the expressive gesture with an exhaustive one, Kusama’s meticulous and labor-intensive methods literally pushed painting to its limits. The New York art scene was fascinated, with critics describing her work in oceanic terms: ‘huge’ in scale and composed of ‘innumerable small arcs’, like waves (Mignon Nixon, “Infinity Politics”, in Kusama Yayoi, Tate Publishing, London, 2012, p. 179).
“This was my epic, summing up all I was”, Kusama once remarked. “And the spell of the dots and the mesh enfolded me in a magical curtain of mysterious, invisible power” (Kusama Yayoi, Infinity Net, London, 2011, p. 23). Diagnosed with an obsessional neurosis, Kusama used her art to ‘self-obliterate’ hallucinatory visions through the process of compulsive reproduction of dots and arcs. Her art was that of epic excess, exuding an infinitely self-perpetuating momentum that engulfs and overwhelms even as it entrances and enthralls. In a conversation with Gordon Brown in 1964 the artist declared: “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. I was always standing at the centre of the obsession, over the passionate accretion and repetition inside of me” (Kusama Yayoi in conversation with Gordon Brown in 1964 in: Laura Hoptman, Yayoi Kusama, London 2000, p. 103). Compulsively painting, often for days at a time, Kusama’s high-intensity process is integral to the meaning of her celebrated Nets series: each dot, loop and arc profoundly indexical to her very being. Eventually, Kusama came to terms with her polka dotted ‘world’, coming up with her own ‘polka dot philosophy’: “I had a desire to foretell and estimate the infinity of our vast universe with the accumulation of units of net, a negative of dots. How profound is the mystery of the infinity that is infinite across the cosmos. By perceiving this I want to see my own life. My life, a dot, namely, one among millions of particles. It was in 1959 that I gave my manifesto that [my art] obliterates myself and other with the void of a net woven with an astronomical accumulation of dots” (Frances Morris, ‘Yayoi Kusama: “My Life, a Dot,”’ in Yayoi Kusama Obsesión infinita, exh. Cat., Malba Costantini Foundation, Buenos Aires, 2013, p.193).
Executed in 1992, the current lot employs acrylic paint instead of oil – a critical transition that the artist undertook in the late 1970s as a homecoming return to water-based medium: the artist began her career with nihonga, traditional Japanese watercolor. The quick drying time of acrylic attests to Kusama’s heightened ambition as well as skill, stamina and endurance after decades of ceaseless painting. With each dot and each arc marking a moment of time passing but not past, Kusama’s laborious technique “exiles narrative in preference to the temporality of enactment”, dilating time and space. A mature and rare reincarnation of Kusama’s original Nets canvases that presents a sublime amalgamation of the polka dot and the net, Infinity Flower Petals epitomizes the artist’s unique brand of cosmic abstraction and ethereal infiniteness.
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