Today is the opening of the Yayoi Kusama “Infinity Mirrors” exhibition at Seattle Art Museum! We got to attend the press preview a couple days ago, and I was completely overwhelmed, in the best way, by the exhibit. Kusama immersed me in her world — and what a world: psychedelic, obsessive, fantastical.
The above photo was taken in the famous Infinity Mirrored Room–Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity. Within a black mirrored room, Kusama filled Japanese lanterns with LED lights that flicker for about 20 seconds before they slowly fade to black. When all the lights illuminated, the glow was breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Then the room darkened, not in an ominous way, but in a peaceful transition, like the transience of life. I often pause to think about how “we live in the flicker” (to borrow from Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness), and no matter our lots in life, we all coexist as little flames that are stronger and more beautiful when communally burning. The lights also made me think about one of my favorite quotes from Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre: “Such is the imperfect nature of man! Such spots are there on the disc of the clearest planet; and eyes [that] can only see those minute defects, and are blind to the full brightness of the orb.” I always need this reminder, to not get so caught up in minutiae that I miss out on the beauty and light within every person.
Read below for more details of the exhibit:
The exhibition showcases Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama‘s 65-year career. There are pieces from her dark, abstract paintings in the 1950s to her themes of “self-obliteration” in the 1960s. You can see her motif of dots in Dots Obsession–Love Transformed into Dots (3rd & 4th photos) and Phalli’s Field (last photo), as well as her use of repetition in all the infinity rooms. Kusama has suffered from hallucinations since childhood, and after some midlife trauma, she has chosen to live in a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo for almost 40 years. Her studio is nearby, so when she’s able, she leaves to create art. Her latest work, completed in 2016, is debuted here (2nd photo) in a series of paintings, with my favorite one titled My Adolescence in Bloom (she’s 88).
Some of her art is presented in a gallery-style, while other exhibits are in isolated rooms as they are immersive experiences. You line up, leave your bag at the door, and are let into a room with 2-3 people for about 20-30 seconds. In The Obliteration Room, you are given a sheet of colorful dot stickers, and you participate in placing the stickers all around this white room. I placed my stickers on a laptop, champagne flute, book, pen, and couch (just a few of my favorite things…) The stickers stay until the end of the show, so the room usually looks completely “obliterated” by colors by then!
I don’t want to say any more so as to give too much away. This is an experience you must have for yourself!
The exhibition runs until September 10. Advance tickets are sold out, but daily tickets are available at the SAM. I recommend going first thing in the morning! (We tried to visit this exhibit in Washington D.C. a couple months ago, but tons of people had already lined up at 4am for the daily tickets!)
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