Kusama: Infinity DVD Review: Connecting the Dots in a Great Artist's Life

As fascinating as Yayoi Kusama's biography is, what truly enthralls is her art.
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Eighty-nine-year-old Yayoi Kusama is currently the top-selling artist in the world, but her path to success has not been a smooth one. Magnolia Home Entertainment's Kusama: Infinity follows the artist's career, from her childhood in Japan to her present reign as the popular artist of Infinity Mirrored Rooms and so much more.

Kusama was born in 1929 in Matsumoto, Nagano, Japan. Through use of family photos and quotes from the artist, the film traces Yayoi's difficult childhood, where her physically abusive mother discouraged her artistic talent (to the point of tearing up her drawings) and prodded her daughter to spy on her father, who had numerous affairs. As a result the young Yayoi had conflicted ideas about sex and relationships, themes she would explore throughout her artistic career. She left Japan at age 27 and moved to New York, where she hoped to pursue her art and lead a freer, less-abusive life. She contacted her idol, Georgia O'Keeffe, who encouraged her to pursue her art. Kusama became part of the New York art scene of the Sixties, associating with American artists such as Andy Warhol, Eva Hesse, and Donald Judd. She also had a long-term, reportedly platonic but intense relationship with an artist as quirky as herself, Joseph Cornell.

Kusama-Naoshimapumpkin.jpgPumpkin, Naoshima, Japan

The documentary makes it clear that Kusama's outsider status as a woman and a foreigner worked against her in New York's art scene. She would show her work with a printed wallpaper background and a few months later Andy Warhol was displaying wallpaper cows. She would show soft sculpture and Claes Oldenburg switched from papier-mache to soft fabric sculptural works. Already having a fragile mental state, feeling that her work was under-appreciated and even copied led her to become depressed and withdrawn. She eventually stopped getting shows in New York and decided to leave the United States and head back home. But moving back to Japan was starting her art career from scratch, and to keep herself together she checked herself into a local mental hospital in Tokyo. She still lives there to this day, where she shuttles back and forth from the hospital to her nearby artist's studio every day, while her work is exhibited throughout the world to huge crowds.

Yayoi_Kusama_(17014818385).jpgYayoi Kusama, Infinity Room

As fascinating as Kusama's biography is, what truly enthralls is her art. And the film showcases many of her works. Colorful polka dots cover paintings, sculptures, walls. They are made of paint and light. Mirrors enhance the art, and round shapes proliferate over her created landscapes. Her art fits into many genres of art as well: pop, installation, happenings, performance, poetry. Kusama is amazingly prolific. She works tirelessly, drawing and painting - her art is as much an obsession as a practice. Kusama: Infinity is not only a fascinating look into the life of an artist, but an interesting commentary on how difficult it can be for a female artist to break into the male-dominated art world - something, which thankfully appears to be changing. Many artists have Yayoi Kusama to thank for their increased visibilty.

Yayoi_Kusama_signing.jpgYayoi Kusama working on a large-scale drawing

Kusama: Infinity can be viewed on Digital HD and DVD, and has an approximate running time of 77 minutes. It is in English and Japanese with English subtitles, with 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. It is in widescreen format, 1.78:1. The film is not rated. There are brief depictions of nudity in some of the art.

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