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yayoi kusama's infinity room the souls of millions of light years away

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013. Wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water, 287.7 × 415.3 × 415.3 cm. Courtesy of David Zwirner, N.Y. © Yayoi Kusama

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

March 3 – May 27, 2018

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EXHIBITION OVERVIEW

Experience infinity: From her immersive infinity rooms to mesmerizing paintings and playful sculptures, Yayoi Kusama welcomes you to participate in her extraordinary and innovative explorations of time and space.

Infinity may be a difficult concept to grasp, but it is easy to contemplate when you step inside one of artist Yayoi Kusama’s iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms in the exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. Rich with key works from the contemporary Japanese artist’s significant 65-year career, this major exhibition also shows the evolution of her immersive, multi-reflective installations, in which she invites you to share in her unique vision.

Immerse yourself in six of these kaleidoscopic environments where you will be endlessly reflected within fantastic landscapes. You’ll also see Kusama’s mesmerizing and intimate drawings, her early Infinity Net paintings in which nets organically expand along the surface of a canvas like cell formations, and her surreal sculptural objects. These key works join more than 90 works on view, including large and vibrant paintings, sculptures, works on paper, as well as rare archival materials.

The 88-year-old artist continues to work at a brisk pace in her Tokyo studio. The exhibition features the North American debut of numerous new works. Her most recent painting series, My Eternal Soul (2009–present), may be the greatest surprise. Exuberant in colour and paired with sculptures that bear titles such as My Adolescence in Bloom, they mark a striking progression in the use of Kusama’s signature symbol of the polka dot. Also on view in North America for the first time is the recently realized Infinity Mirror Room, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016 , a field of yellow, dotted pumpkins spreading into infinity.

In addition to the paintings, sculptures, drawings and environments, viewers will encounter posters, letters, cards, and invitations that relate to Kusama’s early exhibitions and events—including her first solo show, which took place in Seattle—a slideshow of Kusama’s performances as well as an interview with the artist filmed on the occasion of this exhibition.


 

YAYOI KUSAMA

kusama with artworks

Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016. Courtesy of the artist © Yayoi Kusama, Photo by Tomoaki Makino

Guided by her unique vision and unparalleled creativity, critically acclaimed artist Yayoi Kusama has been breaking new ground for more than six decades. In 1993, she became the first woman to have a solo presentation at the Venice Biennale’s Japanese Pavilion, and in 2016, Time magazine named her one of the world’s most influential people.

Born in 1929, Kusama grew up near her family’s plant nursery in Matsumoto, Japan. At nineteen, following World War II, she went to Kyoto to study the traditional Japanese style of painting known as Nihonga. During this time, she began experimenting with abstraction, but it was not until she arrived in the United States, in 1957, that her career took off. Living in New York from 1958 to 1973, Kusama moved in avant-garde circles with such figures as Andy Warhol and Allan Kaprow while honing her signature dot and net motifs, developing soft sculpture, creating installation-based works, and staging Happenings (performance-based events). She first used the mirror as a multi-reflective device in Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, 1965, transforming the intense repetition that marked some of her earlier works into an immersive experience. Kusama returned to Japan in 1973 but has continued to develop her mirrored installations, and over the years, she has attained cult status, not only as an artist, but as a novelist.



About the Art

Infinity Mirror Rooms

In 1965, Kusama began using mirrors to transcend the physical limitations of her own practice and achieve the repetition that is crucial to her Infinite Net paintings and Accumulation sculptures. Sculptural, architectural, and performative, these installations blur the lines between artistic disciplines and create an engaged experience as the visitor completes the artwork.

installation of kusama's "love forever"

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room – Love Forever, 1966/1994, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Wood, mirrors, metal, and lightbulbs. Photo by Cathy Carver

kusama love forever slide

Love Forever

Hexagonal in shape and mirrored on all sides, Love Forever features two peepholes that invite you to peer in and see both yourself and another viewer repeated into infinity. At the time Kusama created this Infinity Mirror Room, she was experimenting with new technology and viewed the work as a “machine for animation.” During the 1966 exhibition opening of Kusama’s Peep Show, which featured this work, Kusama distributed buttons with her message “Love Forever” printed on them. For the artist, this concept of Love Forever stood for civil rights, sexual liberation and the antiwar movement, brought to the cultural mainstream by activist groups of the 1960s.

yayoi kusama's infinity room the souls of millions of light years away

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013. Wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water, 287.7 × 415.3 × 415.3 cm. Courtesy of David Zwirner, N.Y. © Yayoi Kusama

kusama souls of millions slide

The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away

Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away is like an out-of-body experience as you enter a a repetitive illusion created with lights and mirrors. Like stars in the galaxy, hundreds of LED lights hang and flicker in a rhythmic pattern that seems to suspend both space and time. You become part of the work as your body activates the environment and simultaneously vanishes into the infinite space.

installation shot of kusama's All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins

Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016. Installation view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Wood, mirror, plastic, black glass, LED. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver

kusama pumpkin slide

All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins

The pumpkin motif first appeared in some of Kusama’s drawings from the late 1940s and has repeatedly shown up in her paintings, sculptures, drawings and installations. Her initial pumpkin mirrored room was staged in 1991 and was later displayed at the 1993 Venice Biennale. Stepping into Infinity Mirrored Room—All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, you are transported to a space that recalls fairytales and fantasy.

yayoi kusama's infinity room phalli's field

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, 1965. Installation view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Sewn stuffed cotton fabric, board, and mirrors. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carve

kusama phalli's field slide

Phalli's Field

Kusama spent much of her time between 1962 and 1964 sewing thousands of stuffed fabric tubers and grafting them to furniture and found objects to create her Accumulation sculptures. She exhibited the works together in an attempt to create hallucinatory scenes of phallic surfaces, but making them was physically and mentally taxing. In a breakthrough moment, she started to use mirrors to achieve similar repetition. The reflective surfaces allowed her vision to transcend the physical limitations of her own practice. The mirrors also created a participatory experience by making viewers part of the work.

installation of kusama's work "aftermath of the obliteration of the universe"

Yayoi Kusama, Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009, Installation view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, black glass, and aluminum. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver

kusama aftermath slide

Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity

In Infinity Mirrored Room—Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity you enter into a world of flickering golden lanterns, immersing yourself in a shimmering pattern of light that contrasts with the seemingly endless void of the mirrored black space. For Kusama, this work is a reflection on the experience of death and the potential of the afterlife. The imagery in this work recalls the Japanese tradition of toro nagashi, a ceremony in which paper lanterns float down a river to guide ancestral spirits back to their resting places on the final night of the summer Obon Festival. The ceremony often commemorates the victims of the atomic bombs. Mesmerizing and intimate, Kusama’s poetic installation underscores the impermanence of life and the certitude of death.

kusama's "dot's obsession" installation

Yayoi Kusama, Dots Obsession – Love Transformed Into Dots, 2007, Installation view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. Mixed media installation. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York., © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver

kusama dots obsession slide

Dots Obsession — Love Transformed into Dots

Hanging from the ceiling and occupying the floor, large polka dotted balloons surround your view. As you navigate through the space, you can enter a mirrored room inside one of the balloons and peer inside another. The work engages you with its contrasting scales: at one moment you are enveloped by a massive balloon and in another, you squint through a small peephole to see a mirrored infinity. Kusama provides the soundtrack for your experience, as she hauntingly sings one of her poems on a nearby video screen.

installation of kusama's obliteration room

Yayoi Kusama,The Obliteration Room, 2002 to present. Furniture, white paint, and dot stickers. Dimensions variable. Collaboration between Yayoi Kusama and Queensland Art Gallery. Commissioned Queensland Art Gallery, Australia. Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2012. Collection: Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia © Yayoi Kusama. Photograph: QAGOMA Photography

kusama obliteration room slide

The Obliteration Room

Kusama’s The Obliteration Room invites you to complete the work. The room begins as a pure white room of furniture and everyday objects. All visitors are given polka dot stickers and invited to place them wherever they want, as the space gradually transforms during the run of the exhibition. Kusama’s concept of obliteration finds new expression as the pristine white space is gradually covered in an accumulation of brightly coloured dots allowing each visitor to partake on a journey to infinity one polka dot at a time.

 
kusama's painting "searching for love"

Yayoi Kusama, Searching for Love, 2013. Acrylic on canvas. Collection of Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore; Victoria Miro, London © Yayoi Kusama.

Paintings

“...producing the unique art that came from within myself was the most important thing I could do to build my life as an artist.”

Kusama’s paintings embody the motifs echoed often throughout her work, giving evidence to the singular vision that has driven her over the course of her long career. Colours and patterns pulsate within the bordered spaces of her canvases. She was determined to incite experiences of immersion and boundlessness even in two dimensions.

 

Works on Paper

“I thought of Seattle as only the first step in my reckless journey.”

Kusama’s works on paper first garnered attention in the United States in 1957, when she was the subject of a solo exhibition at Zoë Dusanne Gallery in Seattle. These early drawings are intimate, organic microcosms that the artist later expanded on in her Infinity Mirror Rooms.

kusama's painting "flower"

Yayoi Kusama, Flower, 1975. Collage with pastel, ink, fabric on paper. 39.8 x 54.3 cm Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama

 
installation of kusama's work "Life"

Yayoi Kusama, Life (Repetitive Vision), 1998. Installation view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017 © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver

Sculptures

“I make them and make them and then keep on making them, until I bury myself in the process. I call this ‘obliteration’.”

Kusama began making the Accumulations or soft sculptures in the early 1960s. They serve as important precursors to her Infinity Mirror Rooms. These works point to a crucial development that eventually transformed her process-based production from physical repetition to photographic reproduction to instantaneous reflection.


 

Supplementary Installation: Narcissus Garden

kusama's narcissus garden

Yayoi Kusama, Narcissus Garden, installation view at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden 2016 ©YAYOI KUSAMA, courtesy YAYOI KUSAMA Inc.

Don’t miss Kusama’s supplementary installation Narcissus Garden, featuring 1,300 stainless-steel mirror balls spread throughout our Signy-Eaton Gallery.

Created in 1966, the first incarnation of Narcissus Garden appeared in the gardens outside of that year’s Venice Biennale. As one of her first pieces of performance art, Kusama planted a sign reading “Your Narcissism for Sale” and sold each mirror ball to visitors for two dollars. On view from February 24 to April 29, 2018. Free with admission.

 


Kusama Events

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Film: Kusama's Self-Obliteration

Yayoi Kusama (born 1929, Matsumoto, Japan), Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, 1967
16mm film transferred to DVD (colour, sound, 22 mins. 30 secs.).
Cinematography by Jud Yalkut. Collection of the artist.

Kusama made this 16mm film with American experimental filmmaker Jud Yalkut (1938­–2013). In the late 1960s, America was undergoing a massive cultural shift, with the civil rights movement and Vietnam War protests leading to the rise of hippie culture. Kusama embraced the radical peace-and-love sensibilities of the hippies and was inspired to create a series of similarly themed performance works, or Happenings. The film begins in rural upstate New York, with Kusama as its star, and features footage from Happenings in which she paints models with polka dots. It was so popular in art-house film circles that Kusama organized regular screenings and set up a company to sell prints from the film by mail order.

 


 

EXHIBITION CATALOGUE

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors Catalogue

Companion publication to the AGO 2018 exhibition. World-renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has worked in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture, performance art, and installation. Kusama's iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms, which originated with Phalli's Field in 1965, situate viewers in kaleidoscopic spaces filled with multicolored lights or whimsical forms. These mirror-lined installations reflect endlessly, distorting rooms to project the illusion of infinite space. Over the years, the works have come to symbolize different modalities within the various contexts they have inhabited, from Kusama's self-obliteration in the Vietnam War era to her more harmonious aspirations in the present. By examining her early unsettling installations alongside her more recent ethereal atmospheres, this volume aims to historicize the body of work amidst the resurgence of experiential practices within the global landscape of contemporary art. Generously illustrated, this publication invites readers to examine the series impact over the course of the artist's career. Accompanying essays, an interview with the artist, and a scholarly chronology round out the book.

Buy the Catalogue


 

kusama past events

PAST EVENTS

Popular
Food & Drink
Curated Dinner Series – Kusama Edition #2
Thursday, May 31, 6:30 pm

As the Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors comes to a close, so too does the menu inspired by her work. Enjoy this last chance to taste our chefs favourite presentations from the omakase dinner menu paired with wines and sakes.

View the Menu

Shopping Events
Book Signing with Illustrator Ellen Weinstein
Sunday, April 29, 2–4 pm

Join us in shopAGO for an exclusive book signing of Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity, with illustrator Ellen Weinstein.

Ellen Weinstein was born and raised in New York City and is a graduate of Pratt Institute and New York’s High School of Art and Design. She has received awards from American Illustration, Society of Illustrators, Communication Arts Illustration Annual, Print Magazine’s Regional Design Annual, Society of Publication Designers, Society for News Designs and the Art Directors Club of New…

Screenings
Kusama: Infinity
April 18, 6pm & 8:30pm

Dir. Heather Lenz, 1h 20 min., 2018

Join us for a special preview screening of Kusama: Infinity before it hits theatres in May.
Director Heather Lenz explores artist Yayoi Kusama’s journey from a conservative upbringing in Japan to her brush with fame in America during the 1960s (where she rivalled Andy Warhol for press attention) and concludes with the international fame she has finally achieved within the art world. 

Guided by her unique vision and unparalleled creativity, critically acclaimed artist Yayoi…

Family Events
Family Sundays, April: Polka Dot Fun
Sundays April 1, 8, 15, 22, 29, 2018, 1-4 pm

Inspired by Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition Infinity Mirrors; make polka dot accessories throughout the month. On April 29, the last Family Sunday of the year, join us for a pop up dance party with DJ V∆NESS∆!

View other Family Sundays events.

Popular
Food & Drink
Curated Dinner Series – Kusama Edition #1
Thursday, March 29, 6:30 pm  

Inspired by Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, ease into the flavours of Japan with Godspeed Brewery and hand crafted cocktails from the Kusama themed cocktail menu.
Wine pairings to match the tasting menu.

View the menu

Popular
Screenings
Yayoi Kusama: I Adore Myself
Fridays through May 11, 6 pm and 8:30 pm

Dir. Takako Matsumoto, 1 h 42 min, 2008 Japanese with English subtitles

Who is Yayoi Kusama? This rarely shown candid observational documentary captures Yayoi Kusama’s daily activities and creative process over a period of several months in 2006 – 2007 as she diligently works to complete a series of 50 large monochrome drawings. Kusama is seen in her studio, meeting with visiting curators, and reflecting on her life and success. 

Born in 1929, Yayoi Kusama grew up near her family’s plant nursery in Matsumoto,…

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Talks
Yayoi Kusama Curator’s Talk with Mika Yoshitake
Wednesday February 28, 2018

Join Mika Yoshitake, curator of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, for an insightful talk about Kusama’s life and work.

Mika Yoshitake was a Curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., where she has curated Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (2017), Shana Lutker: Le ‘NEW’ Monocle, Chapters 1-3 (2015-16), Le Onde:Waves of Italian Influence…

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