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Kusama: Infinity (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 7, 2020

Kusama: Infinity


Featuring Yayoi Kusama.

Written by Heather Lenz and Keita Ideno.

Directed by Heather Lenz.

Distributed by Magnolia Pictures. 80 minutes. Not Rated.

I love it when I have no idea about who a person is before I watch a documentary. Having seen this film, it is incredible to me that no one that I know, when asked, has known the name Yayoi Kusama. She is the top-selling female artist in the WORLD. Her exhibits sell out within days and lead to people lined up around city blocks for same-day ticket opportunities. So why don’t we know her story… or even her name?

Kusama: Infinity sheds some light into this question.

  1. Kusama was born in Matsumoto City, Japan and did not hit the US art scene until 1958

  2. In spite of her incredible talent, vision, and drive – which granted her entry into galleries showing Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg – racism and sexism kept her work in the shadows. It was poorly displayed and marketed, and allegedly, even copied by these other art greats with far more name recognition.

  3. Kusama battled trauma scars from childhood and mental health diagnoses including obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and depression. She returned to Japan severely depressed in the 80’s and entered a psychiatric facility after a suicide attempt. She has lived in this facility for more than 30 years. The art therapy program at the facility led to the re-kindling of her artistic fire and once her talent was recognized, has led to a return to forefront of the art world (with the needed psychiatric support).

Kusama: Infinity opens with the artist, donning a severe red wig, dressed in a polka dot dress, standing in front of a large, white board holding a large black permanent marker. My anxiety peaked in that moment as she began drawing on the white board with the marker, without hesitation or concern for “error.” There is no eraser, no white out. She is an artist with a vision. A vision that takes roughly three days per piece for completion. A piece for which there is no rough draft, only a final product.

Hearing her story, it becomes easy to understand the inspiration behind her complex artwork – a traumatic experience as a child in a field of flowers becomes complex nets and polka dots and collage – a way for her to work through her traumatized history. Before venturing off to America, she destroyed over 2,000 pieces of art from her youth – vowing to do even better work. And she did. Interviews with early art fans describe being compelled to get pieces that they bought for $75, sold decades later for $750,000, that now sell for millions.

My one complaint about this film is that it is premiering only now, at the tail end of the nearly two-year, five US (and Canada) city museum tour of Yayoi Kusama. Infinity Mirrors and is already sold out at its final destination, at the High Museum in Atlanta, GA, following its sold-out exhibit in Cleveland, OH. The High Museum is releasing 100 tickets daily during the run as last-minute entry tickets, so there is still hope for people to experience Kusama’s art in person.

For those of us less privileged to see the art in person, take the opportunity to learn about Yayoi Kusama through the compelling and visually stimulating Kusama: Infinity.

Bonnie Paul

Copyright ©2018 All rights reserved. Posted: September 27, 2018.

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