At 89, Kusama is celebrated for her colourful polka-dot motifs and her immensely popular Infinity Mirrored Rooms. However, her critical and commercial success comes after decades of struggle against a traumatic upbringing, lifelong mental illness, a conservative Japanese art world, and racism and sexism in the West.
Frustrated by Japan’s conservative culture, Kusama moved to New York in 1958. Once there, she gained notoriety with her avant-garde sculptures, installations and performances – but little success. She was stymied by sexism and racism, and other artists adopted her ideas but failed to acknowledge her contribution.
Disheartened, she returned to Tokyo in 1970, and voluntarily retired to a mental institution. Nonetheless, she continued to create, habitually visiting her nearby studio to work. Today, Kusama’s polka dot creations draw huge crowds at exhibitions around the world, from America to Australia.
Filmed for more than a decade, Heather Lenz’s debut documentary shows how Kusama overcame countless odds to create a legacy of artwork that spans the disciplines of painting, sculpture, installation art, performance art, poetry, and novels, and has endured to become the top-selling female artist in the world.
Unfolding over several decades, Yayoi Kusama’s career has both exemplified and transcended two of the most important art movements of the 20th century: Pop art and Minimalism. Her highly influential work spans paintings, performances, room-sized presentations, outdoor sculptural installations, literary works, films, fashion, design and interventions, all of which expand and explore both microscopic and macroscopic universes.
One of the most – if not the most – popular artists in the world, Kusama continues to draw record numbers of visitors to her exhibitions internationally, while photos of her Infinity Mirrored Rooms have become omnipresent on social media. Kusama, who is now based in Tokyo, continues to tirelessly create art and participate in exhibitions.
In just the past few years, she has presented major shows at prestigious international institutions including the Centre Georges Pompidou, the Tate Modern, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the National Center of Art, Tokyo and the Hirshhorn Museum. In 2017, Kusama opened her own museum in Tokyo with the inaugural exhibition Creation Is a Solitary Pursuit, Love Is What Brings You Closer to Art.
Writer, director and producer Heather Lenz is passionate about documentaries and biographical films and drawn to stories about people with creative minds who have not walked a familiar beaten path. Her first short documentary about a bicycle inventor, Back to Back, was nominated for a student Academy Award and screened at film festivals worldwide. Lenz has degrees in Art History and Fine Arts from Kent State University. She also earned an MFA in Cinematic Arts from the University of Southern California.
“Heather Lenz has made a loving respectful film about a subject well worth documenting. If you love art, this is a must-see.” – POV Magazine
Kusama: Infinity screens at selected cinemas nationally from 26 December 2018. For more information, visit: www.madmanfilms.com.au for details.
Image: Yayoi Kusama (supplied)