Expanding outward in an undulating lattice of loops and curls, Yayoi Kusama’s WHITE NETS (HWTOQ) 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, Kusama's Infinity Nets are a dual manifestation and coping mechanism for the artist’s obsessive-compulsive disorder and hallucinations brought on by a psychological condition. Executed in 2006, WHITE NETS (HWTOQ) continues the legacy of this iconic series, employing the same repetitive and hypnotic mark-making that epitomizes 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.
Arguably her most visually complex and conceptually provocative body of works, the Infinity Nets stand out from the artist’s diverse oeuvre as particularly poignant contributions to the conversation of 20th century art. Having first emerged in the late 1950s, the Infinity Net paintings represent an astounding half-century long expression of the artist’s own obsessional neurosis and persistent use of art production to “self-obliterate” hallucinatory visions through the process of compulsive reproduction of painted spots. "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” (The artist quoted in Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Net, London 2011, p. 23).
From their inception, Kusama’s Infinity Nets ever so quietly dispelled traditional rules and expectations of pictorial space, painterly narratives and calculated compositions. Instead, through their rather organic production, works such as WHITE NETS (HWTOQ) celebrate the sheer materiality of Kusama’s canvas while delving into a dizzying exploration of optical sensations. While not entirely random nor overly precise, the artist’s carefully painted dots and arcs weave together a mesmerizing web. Kusama herself has described her Infinity Nets as paintings "without beginning, end, or center. The entire canvas would be occupied by [a] monochromatic net. This endless repetition caused a kind of dizzy, empty, hypnotic feeling” (the artist quoted in Laura Hoptman, Yayoi Kusama, London 2000, p. 103).
In WHITE NETS (HWTOQ), 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. For all the flurry of countless brushstrokes across this grand canvas, with its elegant palette and intricate construction, the work remains entirely serene and utterly spellbinding to the artist and viewer alike.
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. Absorptive and dizzyingly ornate, WHITE NETS (HWTOQ) inspires this same entrancement through opticality, all marks coalescing 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, WHITE NETS (HWTOQ) 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 desire 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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