When it comes to our favorite versatile artists, ones who so seamlessly blur the line between artist and designer, Yayoi Kusama is at the top of the list. It wasn’t long after we last featured the prolific Polka Dot Princess that we learned her latest exhibition, Infinity Mirrors, would be travelling to four major North American museums: Seattle Art Museum, the Broad in Los Angeles, the Art Gallery of Ontario (the only Canadian stop), and the Cleveland Museum of Art. The exhibition’s journey across the continent marks Kusama’s largest tour on this side of the globe in nearly twenty years. Infinity Mirrors completely sold out during its previous tenures at Seattle and L.A. It currently resides at the AGO.
Yayoi Kusama, now eighty-seven, is still actively working and creating in her Tokyo studio. Infinity Mirrors serves as a retrospective, allowing viewers to experience six of her iconic mirrored room environments, as well as installations, paintings, sculptures, and 2-D paper works, created between 1950 and the present day. A number of these works will be receiving their North American debut.
Kusama’s bold, optically startling artwork made her an important artist in the New York post-war arts scene, but decades later, her work has sparked the interest of younger generations. When the artist was ten, she began to experience intense hallucinations; according to Huffington Post, she has described these as “flashes of light, auras or dense fields of dots,” which filled her with anxiety and dread. When she began creating artwork, Kusama drew inspiration from these hallucinations and realized her visions as swarms of polka dots on canvas, everyday objects, and even living people. She referred to these as “infinity nets,” and the concept of infinity is one that has permeated her long career. Again and again, Kusama has examined our perception and relationship with time in her work, playing whimsically and dramatically and the notion of forever. Infinity Mirrors represents the artist’s continued exploration of eternity.
So what, exactly, are the six mirrors rooms that gallery visitors can expect to see?
According to the AGO, the exhibition is organized largely chronologically, beginning with Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field, which served as a major milestone for the artist in 1965. This installation features hundreds of stuffed phalli (male reproductive organs) painted in her signature bright and whimsical polka dots.
Infinity Mirror Room – Love Forever, according to the AGO, is a recreation of Kusama’s 1965 mirrored environment, Peep Show. This piece is a hexagonal chamber filled with colourful flashing lights. Mirrors on the walls, floor, and ceiling create an illusion of infinite space, with no clear beginnings or endings. Guests will be able to view this room from the outside, looking in.
All the Eternal Love I have for Pumpkins is a far more recent work; Kusama created this room in 2016. This mirrored room stands as a contemporary example of the artist’s studies in obsession. The floor of this room is lined with dozens of bright yellow pumpkins, decorated—of course—in polka dots.
The Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity room features a complex LED environment, which Kusama created the year she turned eighty. The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston describes this as a “delicate, shimmering mirage” that unfolds “as an array of lights ignites and is mirrored on every surface of the all-encompassing environment.” The vibrant display then fades before beginning again in an endless cycle. The museum cites Kusama’s explanation for the work: “Life is what I always try to understand — its depths and its mystique of rise and fall. I struggle for it throughout my life. From day to day, I understand the greatness brought by this mystique as well as that love is eternal and keeps appearing and disappearing. And what is more, I am very pleased to be alive after realizing that I have overcome this everyday life and been able to reach today. Yet we keep flashing, disappearing, and again blossoming out in this Eternity.”
The Dots Obsession — Love Transformed into Dots room, created in 2009, again features the polka dots that long ago earned Kusama the titles of “Queen of Polka Dots,” “Polka Dot Princess,” and “Priestess of Polka Dots.” In this work, massive dot-covered balloons are suspended in the air and, thanks to the use of mirrored reflections, black dots seem to cover every surface of the known universe.
Finally, Kusama’s Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away features another LED experience — this time, one that evokes the infinite nature of the galaxy and its myriad of stars, whose light has taken a significant slice of eternity to reach us here on Earth.
For tickets to Infinity Mirrors, visit here. We recommend jumping on these — unfortunately, the number of tickets is the only thing about this exquisite exhibition that isn’t infinite.