Yayoi Kusama: Infinite & Iconic

yayoi k

There is no denying the captivating and transformative aspects to Yayoi Kusama’s current installation at the Seattle Art Museum “Infinity Mirrors”.  The works displayed here span her 65-year career as a revolutionary Japanese artist showcasing her diversity and creativity. This traveling exhibition consists of paintings, works on paper, sculptural displays and, most notoriously, a series of rooms which visitors walk completely into. These rooms each house various sculptural elements with strategic lighting and walls lined with mirrors. As the exhibition title explains, these mirrors create an illusion which transform the walls into glimpses of an intangible universe through their infinite repetition. Each small group (2-4 people) is allotted a short amount of time (generally 20-60 seconds) in the space. Though this may be a disappointment to some, the time frame was an artistic choice made by Kusama. These quick glimpses into “infinity” allow the illusion to hold up and keep the reactions of visitors cut down to first impressions of each environment. However, visitors are allowed to get back in line outside of the desired room to revisit the space of their choice. One room that stuck with me is titled “Infinity Mirrored Room-Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity” (pictured below). This mirror-lined room is pitch black at moments as several hanging bulbs flicker on and off, illuminating the cascade of doubles caused by the mirrors. Another contagiously fun room was the communally formed “Obliteration Room” (also shown below). Here, each visitor is given a sheet of stickers to place anywhere within the installation. In engaging visitors directly with the art, Kusama is seeing how her work is supporting and encouraging creativity. It is a statement-which can be compared to the metaphor of being a drop in the ocean-we are all dots on a wall, leaving a small mark which when combined with others creates an array of brilliant shades. We are one in a million and also one of a million.

Kusama dangles the concepts of infinity, and the idea of being a part of something universal and larger than ourselves. She claims through her use of dots she is measuring her own place in an infinite universe. These works immerse visitors into alternate realities that feed the imagination and create new worlds within their illusions. Through the various media used, Kusama gives glimpses into the workings of her mind and juxtaposes the ideas of infinity and individual frailty leaving us questioning our place in the universe and yearning to discover more.

Figure 1
“Infinity Mirrored Room-Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity”, 2016, by Yayoi Kusama
Figure 2
Detail of “The Obliteration Room”, 2002-present by Yayoi Kusama

This exhibition also included sculptural works which can be peered into to create another mirrored illusion of a never-ending horizon line. Perhaps what I admire most about these-aside from their sheer creativity of course-is the dire need for them to be experienced in person. Though we often say that about all art, it holds especially true for these works. For example, look at image below:

Figure 3
View inside one of the installations

What exactly are you looking at? How big do you think that room is? Where are the actual walls to it? The mirrors? What if I told you that what you’re looking at is actually not a room at all, but rather the view of a peep hole. It is still hard to envision without experiencing it, and even as it stands before you it leaves you pondering the details. Kusama’s playful works aim to confuse, to cast illusions through this play of perspective, scale, light reflection, color, and pattern. These works toy with our eyes and form a sense of escapism as viewers alter their perspectives and perceptions to absorb them.

Kusama dangles the concepts of infinity, and the idea of being a part of something universal and larger than ourselves. She claims through her use of dots she is measuring her own place in an infinite universe. These works immerse visitors into alternate realities that feed the imagination and create new worlds within their illusions. Through the various media used, Kusama gives glimpses into the workings of her mind and juxtaposes the ideas of infinity and individual frailty leaving us questioning our place in the universe and yearning to discover more.

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All photos courtesy of Seattle-based photographer Connor Surdi. To view more of his work please visit his website at www.connorsurdi.com

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The Seattle Art Museum, locate in the heart of Seattle, is displaying this exhibition until September 10th. Tickets are sold on a first-come first-serve basis, so be sure to get there early to get in line. We waited for about an hour and a half (one hour of that was waiting before the museum opened) and easily got our tickets for the 12:15 time slot. This allowed us enough time to explore the rest of the museum before getting in line for the special exhibit. Once inside, there is no time limit to how long you explore the installations. The next stop for this exhibition is The Broad museum in Downtown Los Angeles and their ticket sales start on September 1st for $25 each. Worth the wait and worth experiencing don’t miss out on the chance to see this for yourself!

 

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