Yayoi Kusama, the Japanese-born artist whose graphically intense, immersive works have become the hallmark of her seven-decade career, has two concurrent exhibitions that feature works ranging from her vivid paintings to her famous inifninity-mirror rooms. Taking place across two Manhattan gallery locations of the David Zwirner Gallery, the “Festival of Life” exhibition is drawing selfie-seeking crowds who are lining up in the Chelsea art neighborhood for the two new “infinity rooms,” mirrored surfaces that cover every inch give an expansive backdrop as well as the reflective spheres that are arranged around the floor and suspended from the ceiling. There are also 66 paintings from her “My Eternal Soul” series, new large stainless steel flower sculptures and a polka-dotted environment. Select paintings from Kusama’s “Infinity Nets” series are featured at the uptown location. The downtown “Festival of Life” is open through December 16, 2017, while “Infinity Nets” is open on the Upper East Side through December 22nd.
The new “infinity rooms” let patrons peer through peepholes into two mirror rooms: one a seemingly-vast room where a color-changing light bulb illuminates hexagonal patterns on the walls and ceiling, while another gallery is populated by stainless steel orbs both suspended in air and strewn on the floor of a mirrored room. The latter draws inspiration from a similar exhibition made by the artist at the 33rd Venice Biennale over 50 years ago.
Earlier this year, the artist held a major exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum Washington D.C. The exhibition there offered patrons six mirror rooms, paintings from the “My Eternal Soul” series and sculptures including large pumpkins, a subject she has long incorporated into her art. The event brought in 160,000 people into the museum over its nearly three month run, according to an article published by The Smithsonian. A few months later, the Dallas Museum of Art announced they’ve acquired Kusama’s “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins” mirror room piece, giving joint ownership to the museum and the Rachofsky Collection.
“This major installation highlights one of Kusama’s most intense moments of innovation,” said Gavin Delahunty, a senior curator at the museum in a prepared statement, “in a pioneering six decades of artistic production that has traversed Conceptual art, Pop, Surrealism and Minimalism.”
Born in Matsumoto, Japan in 1929, Kusama left occupied her country to explore avant-garde art in America, eventually becoming a major force in Pop art and Minimalism. She created art that ran opposite to what was being made at the time, and after living in squalor for her first two years in New York, her career took off in part with help from artist Georgia O’Keeffe.
Having struggled with auditory and visual hallucinations, on top of traumatic sexual abuse in her childhood, Kusama has found ways to mine these aspects for her art. The polka dots and boundless backdrops of repeating patterns that she is famous for is meant to mimic the hallucinations she experiences.
“I woke one morning to find the nets I had painted the previous day stuck to the windows,” writes the artist in her autobiography Infinity Net: The Autobiography of Yayoi Kusama. “Marvelling at this, I went to touch them, and they crawled on and into the skin of my hands. My heart began racing. In the throes of a full-blown panic attack I called an ambulance, which rushed me to Bellevue Hospital.”
Her work has led her into a successful art and fashion career, with her style being a pop-culture icon itself. Her work has been seen in international museums, private collections, and auction houses and has sold for millions of dollars. The Chelsea gallery where her work is currently on view recommends that interested patrons come two-to-four hours early to ensure a chance to see the limited-time event.
IF YOU GO:
“Festival of Life”
Through December 16, 2018
David Zwirner Gallery
525 & 533 West 19th Street
New York City
Contact: (212) 727-2070