Kusama: Infinity finally highlights an incredible talent.
Kusama: Infinity is a documentary by Heather Lenz about the turbulent life and career of 89-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, who is famous for her mesmerising paintings of nets, dots, immersive mirror installations (which feature in her current show) and soft material pieces.
Having famously lived in a Tokyo psychiatric hospital for the last 41 years, Kusama has tried to manage her frail mental health through her obsessive drawings, watercolours, collages, paintings, sculpture, installations and performances. These mental health issues have been around since she was young, as the documentary looks to her her childhood to explain her current mental state.
Her mother disliked her art, at times ripping her work from her hands, thus scarring her. Other psychic damage was said to have been caused by Kusama witnessing her father in compromising positions with women other than her mother, leaving her with a lifelong disdain for sex (she shared this disdain with eccentric artist Joseph Cornell, who she dated for a short time while residing in New York).
The film chronicles Kusama’s life to the present day, highlighting her depression and subsequent suicide attempts, her artwork involving public nudity and professional setbacks due to racism and sexism (Kusama recounts instances when artists Claes Oldenburg and Andy Warhol may have mimicked her work, with strong evidence in her favour.)
But while all the sensational aspects of Kusama’s life are highlighted, what can also be gained from watching this documentary are the reasons and importance of the work Kusama has produced, which really elevates how the viewer perceives her work.
It seems life has come full circle for Kusama, who was undervalued and ignored professionally in her youth and is now the most successful female living artist today. In Matsumoto, her city of birth, she is hailed as a hero where once she was shunned. This documentary showcases how the art world and the general public are finally catching on to the importance and influence of Yayoi Kusama. What is clear is the rejuvenating power of her art. An insightful and uplifting film.
In 1993, Kusama became the first woman to represent Japan in the Venice Biennale.