Yayoi Kusama, No. A.B., 1959

NARRATOR: No. A.B. is the largest painting in this gallery—but some of Kusama’s Infinity Nets were even larger. The activity of painting them, she’s said, overtook everything.

At an early age, Kusama began experiencing frightening hallucinations in which a single image would multiply again and again, taking over her field of vision. There were patterns, flowers, and—most of all—dots. All were part of an overwhelming accumulation and growth, which she felt threatened to obliterate her. Kusama is an incredibly productive artist—in part, she’s said, because it is through her art that she channels these forces.

Describing these works in her autobiography—also called Infinity Net—Kusama wrote:

“My desire was to predict and measure the infinity of the unbounded universe, from my own position in it—with dots, an accumulation of particles forming the negative spaces in the net. How deep was the mystery? Did infinite infinities extend beyond our universe? In exploring these questions I wanted to examine the single dot that was my own life. One polka dot: a single particle among billions. I issued a manifesto stating that everything—myself, others, the entire universe—would be obliterated by white nets of nothingness connecting astronomical accumulations of dots. White nets enveloping the black dots of silent death against a pitch-dark background of nothingness. By the time the canvas reached 33 feet it had transcended its nature as canvas to fill the entire room. This was my ‘epic,’ summing up all that I was. And the spell of the dots and the mesh enfolded me in a magical curtain of mysterious, invisible power.”