It isn’t often that I’ll write about a time-bound exhibit or event. But Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors deserves a write-up. The much-hyped and über-Instagrammable exhibition, organized by Mika Yoshitake, curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, is thorough retrospective-meets reality-bending escape that’s igniting the imaginations of the thousands who flock to see it.
Infinity Mirrors artfully explores the themes of growth, expansion, and, of course, infinity, that have featured prominently throughout Yayoi Kusama’s 65-year career (she’s 87).
After premiering at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC, Infinity Mirrors is on view at the Seattle Art Museum until September 10, 2017. From there, it moves to Los Angeles, Toronto, and Cleveland before wrapping up in Atlanta in February 2019. (Full details at the bottom of the page.)
For its brevity, the exhibition is packed with dreamy works that create a unique sense of wonder in each of the small themed galleries. The retrospective contains over 90 works spanning Kusama’s career, including phallic soft sculptures adorned with her signature polka-dot motif, large canvas paintings resembling bright webs or cells, and a collection of brightly-patterned worm-like sculptures that appear to grow out of the ground. All exploring a different theme, emerging from within her, working out our questions of humanity. None of Kusama’s art is created by chance.
And then there are the six infinity mirror rooms themselves. I was taken by the stillness I felt in each one.
The rooms have a unique reflective quality (literally and figuratively); especially the darker ones. Aftermath of the Obliteration of Eternity and The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away were particularly immersive – Aftermath with the quality of an unending candlelight vigil, and Souls dropping you in the middle of a twinkling rendition of the universe.
If Infinity Mirrors leaves anything lacking, it’s the short amount of time that visitors are allowed to spend in the mirror rooms (20-30 seconds) compared to the long lines that come before each.
(Kusama has said that the brief time inside the rooms prevents disorientation, but practically speaking, it helps keep the lines moving, too.)
The exhibit culminates with a final interactive artistic exploration: The Obliteration Room. In this space, an all-white domestic interior (think piano, table, chairs, etc.) gradually transforms into another expression of infinity when visitors place bright polka-dot stickers onto the objects. Eventually, the objects themselves disappear into the abstraction. It’s a wild visual trick and a thought-provoking participatory experiment.
So, is it worth all the hype?
Kusama is an internationally celebrated artist who happens to produce works that are as enjoyable to look at (and photograph) as they are to study. The exhibition may seem overhyped thanks to today’s Instagram-obsessed world, but Kusama has been exploring these themes through her artwork for decades before social sharing became a thing.
If you go, try to soak in the experience with your phone down first.
The bottom line: Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors left me and countless others with a new sense of wonder and a million questions – as infinity should.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors
Where to see it:
- Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, USA, June 30–Sept 10, 2017
- The Broad, Los Angeles, California, USA, Oct 21, 2017–Jan 1, 2018
- Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, March 3–May 27, 2018
- Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio, USA, July 9–Sept 30, 2018
- High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, USA, Nov 18, 2018–Feb 17, 2019
What to know if you go:
- Leave yourself a couple of hours to see the full exhibit. It isn’t large, but you’ll be forced to go through slowly if you go at a time when there are lines.
- Take two passes through if you can. Once without your camera to read and experience everything, and once to take photos (if you want to get your Instagram shot).
- The Washington, DC showing required timed-entry passes that had to be reserved a week in advance. This does not appear to be the case with the Seattle exhibition, but still plan your visit well in advance so you can be sure to get tickets.
- The Seattle Art Museum’s website contains a wealth of information about Kusama and the exhibit for those who wish to learn more.