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Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama

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4.05  ·  Rating details ·  678 ratings  ·  73 reviews

In 1957, encouraged by Georgia O’Keeffe, artist Yayoi Kusama left Japan for New York City to become a star. By the time she returned to her home country in 1973, she had established herself as a leader of New York’s avant-garde movement, known for creating happenings and public orgies to protest the Vietnam War and for the polka dots that had become a trademark of her

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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 30th 2012 by University of Chicago Press (first published March 31st 2003)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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Betsy roszkowiak
Jul 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: autobiographies
If you're a fan of Yayoi Kusama, contemporary art, or just strong women in general, this is a great book. It has been translated from its original Japanese version, so at times the writing is a bit rigid, but it's straightforward which is enjoyable in its own way, almost like a casual conversation. I've seen a few people on here complain about he self promotion and bragging in the book, which certainly exists, she has moments where she rattles off one award she's won or praise she's received ...more
Shane
Aug 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
A concise and engrossing narrative of the life of one of today’s greatest living artists who transformed a psychosomatic illness into art.

I was drawn to the work of Yayoi Kusama when I visited one of her Infinity Rooms at the Art Gallery of Ontario recently. I picked up her autobiography the same day at the art gallery’s gift shop. Repetition and Multiplication is her approach, whether it be the mirror balls in the Infinity Room or the multitude of polka dots of her first exhibition in New York
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Charlotte
Jan 20, 2015 rated it liked it
An easy to read autobiography that spans across Yayoi's life. With some elegant prose and lovely imagery, she details her life as a young Japanese artist making her way in New York.

I did struggle with her ego in this book, not one for great moments of humility or reflection on how she (appeared) to treat people. As an artist myself, I wanted to know more about how she used her art as a way to manage her mental instability, and this book almost skimmed across that.

There are some nice moments in
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Lily Joyce
If you're a Kusama fan I totally recommend hearing her own point of view. I've read a solid amount of stuff around her work and life in the art world, and this cleared up a lot of tales. Also beautifully written, ofcourse.
Andrea
Jul 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful spirit. A life devoted to her art and self-expression and seeing just how far she could go.
Dhiyanah
I was introduced to Yayoi Kusama back in university, where my "obsessive" works were subtly likened to Kusama's process with repetition. The first time I truly paid attention to her was two or three years ago. Occasionally having read up on her, I bumped into one of her small pumpkins at an art fair. It was green with black polka dots like growth, disease, dreams, and a glossy overlay that shrouded the object in material status (art fair, high art, luxury) and wonderful absurdity (the hope and ...more
Jenna
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-biography, art
I have been fascinated with Yayoi Kusama and her art since visiting two of her mirrored rooms at the Mattress Factory a few years ago. Such a remarkable woman and artist, and this is a wonderful autobiography. Yayoi writes beautifully, openly, unflinchingly about her life, her art, her mental illness, her dreams and aspirations. Anyone interested in Yayoi Kusama will enjoy this book, and gain a broader understanding into both her life and her incredible, amazing, inspiring art.
Sue Altman
Mar 20, 2015 rated it liked it
This is one of the strangest books I've ever read and I ended up with a real love/hate relationship with it. I really liked the part about her art and especially about her relationships with other artists. And it was fascinating from a mental health perspective. But there was an awful lot of self promotion – since she is such an esteemed artist, I wonder why she felt that necessary.
MJ
Question: what is the normal amount of times to cry while reading an autobiography, because I think I may have exceeded that amount??

This was incredible. Incredible person, incredible artist, incredible message. It reads less like an account of someone's life and more like having a cool conversation with an older relative about their wild life in their 20s, now that you're old enough to understand all the scandalizing stuff they did. My only regret is that I read it after seeing her 2017 US
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Abby
Oct 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There aren't many artists (or people) like Yayoi Kusama. Her autobiography is fascinating and an important counterpoint to her current depiction in mainstream media. The recent traveling exhibition of her work, Infinity Mirrors, glosses over her deeply radical sexual and antiwar politics in the 1960s and 1970s, and downplays the anguish and fear that propelled some of her most challenging work. Her autobiography reveals a fiercely uncompromising artist with a truly original vision.
Harley
Aug 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yayoi Kusama is an amazing artist and storyteller. This book is her memoir of her life in art. Growing up in Japan, she wanted to be an artist, but was discouraged by her mother. She left Japan for the United States in her twenties and she became apart of the New York art scene during the 1950s and 1960s. She became known for both her abstract art as well as her performance art. In the 1970's she returned to Japan and eventually entered a psychiatric hospital where she has spent the rest of her ...more
Alex Adams
Mar 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
A little weird, but I really liked it. It was a bit hard to understand what she meant because it was translated from japanese, but it was overall enjoyable and def worth reading. The link between her mental illness and her work is told from her perspective versus outsiders, as she vividly describes hallucinations that are eventually depicted in her crazy psychedelic designs (which I thought was valuable if you are trying to understand where her inspiration comes from). Also cool to see 70's New ...more
Anna
Sep 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rosa
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I know Yayoi Kusama thanks to my son. I fall in love with her art from the first moment.

Now I read her autobiography and I fall in love with her life and her thoughts.

Kusama is a strong woman who fought hard against her family and the rules which tying all women in that years.

Kusama is not a mental patient, she dreams a better world this is only her illness.
Jørgen Tharaldsen
Jan 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
Amazing character, wild stories, fantastic art, but not that greatly written
Felicity Ford
Mar 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: artists
Insightful book giving a rich overview of the extraordinary talent and tenacity of this celebrated artist. Loved reading Yayoi Kusama's account of her own life and work in her own words, and discovering the themes running through her work with polka dots; infinity nets; pumpkins; light and mirror installations; soft-sculptures; fabric works... reading her life story brings all these elements into alignment so that the trajectory of her ideas becomes easier to follow.

I also appreciated the
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Db
Dec 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After seeing Kusama’s work for the first time this summer, I was intrigued by the descriptions she gives regarding her infinity nets and infinity rooms. So it seemed appropriate to choose the title directly referencing her infinity pieces. I enjoyed the first half of the book where she goes into some of her thinking about infinity and what she means by ‘obliteration’. It is fascinating to see the ties to her childhood experiences and mental states as well, just wish she’d have gone into further ...more
Susan
I've got mixed feelings about this one. It was an easy read & not long. It's a memoir - she's looking back at her life and development as an artist. I'd seen at least one TV "special" about her on NHK (Japanese), seen a reference to her (her dots) in a window display at a Halston (?) shop in Charleston, SC a few years ago and was intrigued. Since then, I've continued to see articles about her, but not telling the complete story. There are some surprises and I don't know why I've never heard ...more
A
Jan 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
After seeing the documentary movie, Kusama: Infinity by Heather Lenz, I wanted to know more about this artist. Kusama's autobiography reveals a lot about her philosophy of living and working as an artist. It is not an easy choice, and is often misrepresented by the press, art writers, and even in the film I had just seen.

Artists' voices are important, although she also states:
Most truly talented artists are inarticulate with language. The greater the genius, the less eloquent he or she is
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Caleb
Jan 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While Kusama writes with elegance and style, there were certain parts (especially in the second half of the book) that came off as braggadocious and overly egotistical. A certain degree of self-centered-ness is to be expected in an autobiography; even so, inserting glowing reviews of your exhibitions every other page is a bit much. To boot, she barely makes mention of her renown "Infinity Mirrors" works; instead, she focuses on the hoopla surrounding her performance art stunts in the sixties, ...more
Mateen Mahboubi
Apr 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Inspired by the retrospective show that came into town, I picked up this book of an artist that I had previously known little about. Having been wowed by the art, it was fascinating to read about the life behind it and the stories told in the artists own words. It does appear that the book does suffer a bit in translation and, as others have mentioned, the lack of humility is a bit surprising at time but the cultural differences do add a bit of charm. A quick read taking us through a non-linear ...more
Alex
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Like:
- the substantial footnotes combined is like a mini history lesson of contemporary art in especially New York
- this book provides a comprehensive understanding of Yayoi Kusama both as a person and an artist
- her observation of the other artists at her time (from one artist to another, as a peer and a competitor)

Dislike:
- some paragraphs feel disconnecting to another, or just don’t flow smoothly. Ex: jumping from one perspective to another, this sentence’s viewpoint contracts with the
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Simone
Dec 06, 2019 rated it did not like it
I could not get over her fetishization of people of color. Her acceptance of negative stereotypes and the perpetuation of said stereotypes in her own words and actions was highly disturbing (describing POC as animalistic in their sexual nature, even describing them as smelling differently from other races/ethnicities). Her writing often focused on (1) describing her "brilliant" artwork/exhibitions, then reprinting reviews and commentary from others about her "brilliant" work and (2) disgust with ...more
B. Jean
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible memoir by the great Yayoi Kusama.

It was a little intimidating, but yet incredibly affirming. What I especially enjoyed was learning about the "greats" of contemporary art and learning that a lot of them were a little weird, and in the end, just human. It reminds me that instead of trying to cultivate an image of what you should be as an artist, you should just DO the work. There's no need to be intentionally mysterious, to be intentionally weird.

I've taken a lot away from this,
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Jordan
Mar 28, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Becky Wolsk
Sep 29, 2018 rated it liked it
I admire her work but had specific expectations of the autobiography that turned out to be incorrect so I was disappointed (no fault of the book—just not a match for my expectation). Somewhere I had read or heard that she had an experience with unrequited love that led her to channel her obsessive thoughts about him into her art— I don’t know where I came across that anecdote but I was hoping that I would read about that in this book. Although she does discuss her experiences with mental illness ...more
Gen
Mar 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great insights into such an amazing person, both as an artist and as a woman. But were the multiple excerpts from reviews of her work necessary? I skipped over those. I also thought the organization of the chapters should have been more linear, starting from her childhood to present. Overall really good, an easy read that was difficult to put down.
Julie
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“An artist is by no means superior to others just by virtue of making art. Whether you are a laborer, farmer, janitor, artist, politician, or doctor, if you have managed in the midst of a society awash with lies and madness to get one step closer to the awe-inspiring brilliance of your own life, the footprint you leave behind is that of someone who has truly lived as a human being.”
Shadib
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful look into the mind of an artist who has always been ahead of her time in embracing what it means to have mental health issues, champion human rights, owning sexuality, overcoming intense trauma and more. Her words really show how wise and deeply empathetic she is - despite the many hardships of life.
Sharon Miller
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
All too brief, with prose sometimes as bare as a list, sometimes as lyrical as the best literature, set to no order, and deeply fascinating. I really found this autobiography of one of the most recognized living Artists both deeply moving and compelling. Proves that genius is always worth a second look and a deeper attention. As someone who lives with mental illness, I have the most affectionate respect and regard for all of Yayoi Kusama's enigmas and triumphs.
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Avant-garde Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama was an influential figure in the postwar New York art scene, staging provocative happenings and exhibiting works such as her “Infinity Nets”, hallucinatory paintings of loops and dots (and physical representations of the idea of infinity). Narcissus Garden, an installation of hundreds of mirrored balls, earned Kusama notoriety at the 1966 Venice Biennale, ...more
“All of my works are steps on my journey, a struggle for truth that I have waged with pen, canvas, and materials. Overhead is a distant, radiant star, and the more I stretch to reach it, the further it recedes. But by the power of my spirit and my single-hearted pursuit of the path, I have clawed my way through the labyrinthine confusion of the world of people in an unstinting effort to approach even one step closer to the realm of the soul.” 9 likes
“The machinery of the sky that confounds us on earth with endless transformations of clouds in the light of dawn does not compare to the extraordinary tenacity of human beings, the way of human life, the presentiment of approaching death, the existence of love, the brilliant coruscations of light and the dark scars of our lives, to say nothing of the incomprehensible form of the cosmos and the overwhelming mysteries of space, time, distance.” 1 likes
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