directed by Heather Lenz
Trailblazer Yayoi Kusama’s turbulent quest to become a world famous artist is documented in Kusama-Infinity. Born in a conservative family in Japan, Kusama battled racism and sexism in the 1960s New York art scene, to become one of the top-selling female artists in the world today.
Screenings (film in English, partly subtitled in English)
Wednesday 17 October 1:20 - 2:40 pm
Sunday 21 October 12:40 - 2:00 pm
Painter, sculptor, filmmaker, and performer Yayoi Kusama is a famously provocative avant-garde artist, best known for her works featuring repeating motifs and psychedelic imagery that evoke themes of psychology, feminism, obsession, sex, creation, destruction, and intense self-reflection. Kusama was born in Matsumoto City and began painting at the age of 10, as a means of escaping a childhood of neglect and expressing her early experiences with hallucinogenic visions. These apparitions consisted of dots and patterns enveloping her surroundings, suggesting issues of mental illness which have continued to strongly influence her work. Inspired by a letter she received from Georgia O’Keefe, Kusama moved to New York City in 1957 to pursue a career as an artist. Over the next decade she garnered a reputation as a controversial member of the New York avant-garde, first obsessively working on her series of Infinity Nets, paintings and sculptures featuring meticulous, seemingly endless repetitive motifs.
Over the next few years she also staged elaborate happenings throughout New York City, at one point breaking into the garden of the Museum of Modern Art to perform a happening with several naked assistants. She exhibited her work with Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg, and other prominent avant-garde artists throughout the 1960s, before returning to Japan in the early 1970s and living in a mental hospital, where she wrote surreal short stories and poems. She later returned to her previous themes in painting and installation art, creating rooms full of mirrors reflecting her iconic polka dots and Infinity Nets in further meditations on repetition and obsession. After representing Japan at the Venice Biennale in 1993, Kusama’s work received newly heightened recognition from the international art world. She has been honored with the Ordre des Arts et Lettres from the French Ministry of Culture, as well as the Praemium Imperiale prize from the Japanese Art Association. In recent years she has created large public sculptures on commission, and has made several films and documentaries, the most recent released in 2008. The same year, Kusama became the best-selling living female artist, with works breaking record prices at auction. She currently lives and works in Tokyo.
Kusama – Infinity (2018) by Heather Lenz
Now the top-selling female artist in the world, Yayoi Kusama overcame countless odds to bring her radical artistic vision to the world stage. For decades, her work pushed boundaries that often alienated her from her peers and those in power in the art world. Kusama was an underdog with everything stacked against her-the trauma of growing up in
Japan during World War II, life in a dysfunctional family that discouraged her creative ambitions, sexism and racism in the art establishment, mental illness in a culture where that was a particular shame, and eventually growing old and continuing to pursue and be devoted to her art full time. In spite of it all, Kusama has endured and has created a legacy of artwork that spans the disciplines of painting, sculpture, installation art, performance art, poetry, and novels.
After working as an artist for over six decades, people around the globe are experiencing her Infinity Mirrored Rooms in record numbers, as Kusama continues to create new work every day.