Reflecting on Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors” at the Cleveland Museum of Art

watercolors are used to repeat a red dot pattern on paper

The quest for tickets to “Yayoi  Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” at the Cleveland Museum of Art, is almost as fervent as that for “Hamilton.”  “Infinity Mirrors” opened on July 7 in Cleveland, and runs through September 30.

As luck would have it (or careful, early planning), I was able to score tickets. Thank you to The Humble Fabulist for introducing me to “Yayoi  Kusama: Infinity Mirrors,” and suggesting the tickets would sell like hotcakes.

You may be wondering whether the exhibit is worth the effort, time, and money it takes to see the show.

 

Large pink spheres covered in black dots hang from the atrium ceiling at the Cleveland Museum of Art

The answer is, yes; though you might not believe it when you are actually viewing the exhibit.  At that point, you may just think I led you down the dotted path.

A Head Trip

“Infinity Mirrors”  gets into your head only after you’ve had time and space to reflect on it. Excuse the pun.

The rooms aren’t equipped with VR or other cutting-edge technology.  They are filled with lights, sculptures, and, yes, mirrors.

At first blush, you may be disappointed.  “Sure, dots are cute, and so are pumpkins, but is that all there is?” you wonder.

 

scores of sewn and stuffed white fabric phallus-shaped sculptures dotted in red
Infinity Mirrored Room – Phalli’s Field, 1965

You’ll later realize it’s not about the technical side of things at all.

You are  part of the exhibit, as are the hundreds of other human beings trekking through the rooms and peering into the peek-a-boo boxes or, spheres, as the case may be;  A dot among an infinity of dots.  Is that obliteration, or a confirmation that there is no end?

looking through the peep hole into a mirrored sphere filled with pink light and black polka dots

 

In The Obliteration Room, you are given dot stickers to place at-will on the white painted walls and decor.  This was my husband’s favorite room.

a couple walks through the all white room decorated with dot stickers
The Obliteration Room, 2002-present

 

primary-colored dot stickers cover a leg lamp painted white
Obliteration Rooms are unique to each city. Here, Cleveland’s room includes the Leg Lamp. Items in the room were donated by museum staff.

Take photos.  You’ll want to look at them later.  In the Cleveland exhibit, only the first small room is a “no photo zone.”  Otherwise, flash-less photography is permitted.

What’s Kusama Getting At?

I only started making connections while I was looking through the photos I took, and reading an article in The Atlantic by Sarah Boxer.  The article’s title, “An Artist for the Instagram Age,” seems a bit snarky, but Boxer does a wonderful job of communicating Kusama’s messages.

Kusama has explained that her inspiration came from a vision.  She visualized herself in a room of flowered wallpaper, looked down and saw that her hands and arms and everything in the room was covered with the same pattern.  Her self-identity was obliterated by the repeating, infinite pattern. (Bayly, Zac (2012), “Yayoi Kusama”Zac-Attack (interview), retrieved Sep 21, 2013)

suspended LED lights flicker in the darkened room, reflected in the four walls covered by mirrors
Infinity Mirrored Room – Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009

 

the lights and mirrors obliterate the images of the viewer
Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013

I didn’t notice how my reflection was getting lost as I progressed through the rooms.  It was only later, when I looked closely at the photos, that I noticed it. Ah!

There’s More

After our tour of the rooms, we had time to look at Kusama’s paintings, sculptures, and textiles.

Here, you see the progression of Kusama’s early works leading up to “Infinity Mirrors.”

the phallus theme in silver metallic sculpture
Accumulations collection, 1960’s-1970’s

 

Kusama’s ease with color and pattern is displayed throughout the exhibit.  So is her sense of fun.

A patternedcanvas hangs behind a coordinating paisley sculpture
My Eternal Soul Collection, begun 2009

 

yellow and black sculptures resemble octopus tentacles
Tentacle sculpture

 

I think Kusama’s message and mood comes through in the Infinity Mirrors exhibit, and that’s why the exhibit is so appealing to so many.

Beyond contemplating your existence, you may be inspired to paint dots. I thought that I’d give it a try.

Surprisingly, the act of painting an array of circles is calming.  It wasn’t boring like I thought it would be.  And the less perfect the circles were, the better I liked the results.

Quite an analogy, right?

Every couple of generations, an artist is able to generate excitement and enthusiasm for the fine arts.  People take notice, and seek to experience the art for themselves.

It seems appropriate that Yayoi Kusama is the artist for our time.

Tickets for the remaining weeks of the exhibit are sold on Mondays starting at 9 am via the Museum’s website,  cma.org/kusama and by phone at  216-421-7350.

© 2018 auntjoannblog.com. All rights reserved. See Legalese tab for permissions.

 

3 comments

  1. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Goodness, it’s a bit hard to get one’s head around without actually being there. I can understand why your husband liked the dot room, I do too.

  2. This exhibit looks stunning! I’ve never heard of the artist but love the imagery. Seeing more of these cool pop-up installations like Color Factory. Have you been to Meow Wolf in Santa Fe? So worth it.

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