Yayoi Kusama: Infinite & Iconic

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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.


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


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!



Andrea Bowers: Pipelines and Neon Signs

Andrea Bowers is passionate about creating art with powerful messages. Over the span of her career she has utilized her artistic platform as a means to create awareness on current societal issues. Her current display at the Hammer Museum in Westwood (Los Angeles), does just that through its activist stance against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Consisting of a mural, blinking neon signs and interactive take-home ribbons (yes, for once you can touch and take home part of an exhibition!) this installation spans three walls along and near the stairs of the lobby entrance. It will be on view until July 16th!

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The Hammer museum is free and open to the public Tues-Fri 11-8 and Sat & Sun 11-5

For more info please visit: https://hammer.ucla.edu/exhibitions/2017/hammer-projects-andrea-bowers/


Jimmie Durham: Art & Activism

Commonly known as an art activist for the Indigenous peoples of America, Jimmie Durham uses his creativity and cultural background to speak out against the oppression of his people. His works shown here use a wide array of materials-most notably real skulls-to create various assemblage sculptures. Inventive and often a bit bizarre-seeming, his works tend to utilize destruction in order for their creation. From a smashed refrigerator, to a human skull, to a paper with his blood smeared on it, Durham is not shy about his processes and proclamations.  A retrospective of Jimmie Durham’s work is now on display until May 7th at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Many of the works shown in this exhibition were rediscovered by curator Anne Ellegood upon digging through Durham’s archives and storage for this show. Still relevant to the struggles Indigenous peoples face today, this retrospective of his work is bringing him back into the American art scene and helping revive his messages.

Hammer Museum: 10899 Wilshire Blvd., (Westwood) Los Angeles, 90024

Admission: Always free

Hours: T-F from 11-8 and Sat & Sun from 11-5

Above: the back side of Tlunh Datsi from 1984

The back of the puma skull featured in the front center of the first picture. Note the use of varying materials and the inventive restructuring of everyday items.

Human skull (top left and bottom picture) and baby buffalo skull (top right) in combination with several other common Native American materials (such as turquoise, beads, feathers, and shells)

Above: Karankawa from 1982

Pictured above and below: New York Gitli from 1984

All photos were taken by me at the Hammer Museum’s exhibition “Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World” which was brought together by Anne Ellegood, senior curator, and MacKenzie Stevens, curatorial assistant.

Chinese Caves – Replication and Education

Cave 275-back wall

The Getty museum is a wealthy (literally) resource for art lovers of all kinds, and the museum recently has created quiet the buzz with their “Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road” exhibition (on view at the Getty Center until September 4th). This exhibition consists of three main parts: a to-actual-scale replica of three caves, a virtual 3D video of another cave, and a gallery exhibition. It focuses on a selected few Buddhist caves from Dunhuang, China which are located along the Silk Road and through their imagery house extravagant displays of travel, Buddhism, and life from the 5th-8th centuries as well as gallery displays that display artworks from the 4th century to today.

There are three replicated caves which are all entombed side by side in a giant “tent” just in front of the tram drop-off. Each cave is replicated so that it is as close to the original as possible through its size, sculptures, and paintings. You’re allowed a short period of time to photograph and admire replicas of Cave 275, 285, and 320. The artists and art historians intended for the caves to look as they would if you were to walk in them today, therefore they show signs of “damage”, and appear cracked, faded, or rubbed away in certain areas. Between these realistic stylized choices and the lighting, these caves are intended to make you feel as though you are stepping into a time capsule in the outskirts of the Gobi desert in China. They display several Buddhist scenes, symbols, and characters such as Buddha and his faithful Bodhisattvas. The artists were able to create these replications in the original caves using the actual frescos as well as photos to create their paintings and sculptures which were then brought over from China and installed t the Getty center. This is an amazing opportunity for people to experience these rare treasures, even if the original cave in China is no longer open to the public.

The “virtual immersive experience” is located in the Research Library and consists of a short 3D film (3D glasses provided) which showcases Cave 45, which is from the 8th century. It guides you along the back wall’s sculptural figures and then through the flanking wall’s stories and iconography. This is a fun way to learn about, and appreciate, the art of this cave!

Lastly, next door to the 3D experience is a more standard-style gallery. This gallery displays several sutra copies, Bodhisattva images, and various imagery that represents the Silk Road and the caves. This is a rare opportunity for the West Coast of America to experience the rich heritage of these Chinese Caves!


Cave 320

All photographs are my own, for more information please visit the Getty’s website at: http://www.getty.edu/research/exhibitions_events/exhibitions/cave_temples_dunhuang/index.html

Hammer Time! Summer 2016 at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

Angelinos and those in all the surrounding areas are all geared up for the Hammer Museum’s latest and greatest Made in L.A. show! This display of local artists’ works have taken over the entire museum for the summer! Be sure to come by and experience it for yourself and cast your vote for your favorite artist to help the winner receive a grand prize of $1,000. From paintings and sculptures to videos and live performances this collective exhibition is no disappointment. There are several FREE events throughout the summer and yes, the museum is ALWAYS FREE. Parking is $6 with validation for three hours, but there are several buses that drop off right by the museum as well. Swing by and if you’re lucky you may be able to brush elbows with some of the artists and their friends as several continually pop in and out of the galleries. Be sure to take a few moments to test drive the circular spinning chairs in the courtyard! The Hammer Museum is located in Westwood just down the street from UCLA. For more information and to check dates and times of various events please check out their website at:  https://hammer.ucla.edu/