Ann Marie Coolick
Kusama's Galactic Debut
Today I lived out a dream. I was invited to the Press Preview for the new Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the Hirshhorn, which opens to the public February 23rd. The show is the first survey of Kusama's immersive infinity mirror installations, spanning five decades of the acclaimed artist's career. The infinity mirror rooms are closed-door, walk-in installations for one or two people at a time and are merely the size of a large closet, yet unending in appearance. It's as if you are stepping into a time machine and viewing your current self while also having an out-of-body, hallucinatory experience from a galaxy far away. The exhibit also includes paintings, sculptures, peek-hole installations, and photographs with the artist's signature polka dots and colorful, repetitive forms.
Below: inside Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room-- The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.
The repetitive nature of Kusama's work is a therapeutic and meditative response to her lifelong battle with mental illness and her desire to fit in with society. In her early career, she hand-sewed all of her soft sculptures, reminiscent of Ursula's evil Garden of Polyps from The Little Mermaid. However, the mental taxation of this intense repetitive process steered her towards using mirrors in the mid 1960's, which led to the eventual creation of her first infinity mirror room. In the early 2000's, Kusama began exploring the inevitability of death and our relationship with the outer universe. In Infinity Mirrored Room-- The Souls of a Million Light Years Away, we are invited to quietly reflect on our existence and our presence as a tiny spec in the infinite universe. Kusama once said "Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos", and this exhibit will surely make you feel the weight of our existence.
Below: Ennui,1976. Sewn and stuffed fabric with silver paint and shoes.
The final installation of the show, The Obliteration Room, invites viewers to participate in decorating (i.e. "obliterating") the stark-white room with colorful polka-dot stickers. This participatory experience is a way for us all to collectively unite in a task and change a barren landscape into a room of pulsating color. The room has a working piano, children's toys, wine glasses, picture frames, and even painted plants.
Above: The Obliteration Room prior to public opening, February 21, 2017.
While this show is sure to make you question our minion-like presence in the universe, it is also an optimal opportunity to don your polka-dot attire or other flare for an instagram--worthy selfie. Even today in a group of mostly conservative art world professionals, I saw a few bright pink Kusama-esque wigs and polka-dotted t-shirts.
Free timed passes to the exhibit will be released every Monday beginning at 12pm at kusama.si.edu. The exhibit runs February 23 to May 14, after which it will travel to Seattle, Los Angeles, Ontario, Cleveland, and Atlanta.
Above: Infinity Mirror Room: Phalli's Field, 1965.
Above: exterior of Dots Obsession – Love Transformed Into Dots, 2007.
Above: My Eternal Soul paintings and sculptures, 2009 to present.
Above: Kusama's peek-hole installation with a photograph of Kusama reflected off the exterior mirror.