Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors
November 18, 2018–February 17, 2019
The High is proud to present the most comprehensive exhibition by Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929)—one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists—to tour North America in over twenty years.Organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, this show will take visitors on an expansive journey across six decades of Kusama’s creative output and will explore the development of the artist’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, her iconic, kaleidoscopic environments. The exhibition will present six of these rooms as well as sculptures, paintings, works on paper, film excerpts, archival ephemera, and additional large-scale installations that span the early 1950s to the present day. Also on view will be numerous new works by the 89-year-old artist, who remains active in her Tokyo studio.
All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins
Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, wood, mirrors, plastic, glass, and LEDs. Collection of the artist. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore and Victoria Miro, London. © YAYOI KUSAMA.
Born into a family of seed-farmers, Kusama recalls seeing a pumpkin for the first time during a childhood visit to a seed-harvesting farm with her grandfather. Nestled into the landscape between fields of zinnia, periwinkle, and nasturtium flowers, she spotted an unusually shaped gourd the size of a man’s head. The artist was attracted to the pumpkin for its “charming and winsome form,” celebrating its lumpy, unpretentious, organic shape.
Her initial pumpkin mirrored room was staged in 1991 and was later displayed at the 1993 Venice Biennale.
INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM—THE SOULS OF MILLIONS OF LIGHT YEARS AWAY
Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM—THE SOULS OF MILLIONS OF LIGHT YEARS AWAY, 2013, wood, metal, mirrors, plastic, acrylic, rubber, LEDs, and water. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York. © YAYOI KUSAMA.
INFINITY MIRRORED ROOM—THE SOULS OF MILLIONS OF LIGHT YEARS AWAY is an immersive environment that fosters an out-of-body experience, heightens one’s senses, and produces a repetitive illusion through the use of lights and mirrors. Similar in appearance to stars in the galaxy, hundreds of LED lights hang and flicker in a rhythmic pattern that seems to suspend both space and time. The visitor becomes integral to this work as his or her body activates the environment while simultaneously vanishing into the infinite space.
Continuing her exploration of the transience of life and the inevitability of death, this installation creates a harmonious and quiet place for visitors to contemplate their existence, reflect on the passage of time, and think about their relationship to the outer world.
The Obliteration Room
Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), The Obliteration Room, 2002–present, furniture, paint, and dot stickers. 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. Photo by QAGOMA Photography.
In one of the exhibition’s largest installations, The Obliteration Room, Kusama encourages visitors to enact a communal “obliteration” of space by coating the white walls of a gallery—complete with furniture and objects—with colorful sticker dots provided by the artist. Recalling Kusama’s earlier polka-dotted environments and her participatory performances of the late-1960s, this installation demonstrates her continued desire for radical connectivity, which she has described as “a way to free each individual and simultaneously reconnect them in mutual obligation.” Here as elsewhere in the exhibit, the polka dot acts as a universal equalizer, a connector between all participants, drawn together in collective participation.
Searching for Love
Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), Searching for Love, 2013, acrylic on canvas. Collection of Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins. Image courtesy of David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London. © YAYOI KUSAMA.
Searching for Love is part of larger series of paintings titled My Eternal Soul, which Kusama began in 2009 and has grown to include over five hundred works. Within these paintings, which embody both the radiance of life and the sublimity of death, motifs from Kusama’s earliest works are often echoed, giving evidence to the singular vision that has driven her over the course of her long career. Kusama has said that through this series she hopes to trace the “beauty of colors and space in the silence of death’s footsteps and the nothingness it promises.” A selection of fifteen works from the series will be on view at the High during the exhibition.
Installation view of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929), installation view of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017 (Life [Repetitive Vision], 1998). Art © YAYOI KUSAMA. Photo by Cathy Carver.
“One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up to see that the ceiling, the windows, and the columns seemed to be plastered with the same red floral pattern. I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant my soul was obliterated and I was restored, returned to infinity, to eternal time and absolute space.”
Born in 1929, Yayoi Kusama grew up near her family’s plant nursery in Matsumoto, Japan. At nineteen, following World War II, she moved to Kyoto to study a traditional Japanese style of painting known as Nihonga that is typically made on washi paper or silk. During this period, Kusama began experimenting with abstraction, though it was not until her arrival in the United States in 1957 that she embraced it fully and began the phase that would characterize her mature work. While living in New York between 1958 and 1973, Kusama worked closely with important artists of the 1960s art world—including Eva Hesse, Allan Kaprow, and Donald Judd—while refining her signature dot and net motifs, developing her soft-sculpture pieces, and creating her first installations and performance-based works. In her 1965 Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, Kusama first used mirrors to transform the intense repetition that marked some of her earlier works into an enveloping, seemingly endless experience. The artist returned to Japan in 1973 and has continued to develop mirrored installations, expanding her earlier work into immense and often immersive environments. Today, Kusama maintains an active studio practice in Tokyo, Japan, and is widely regarded as one of the most important artists of the twentieth century.
#InfiniteKusama on Instagram
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
This exhibition is made possible by
Premier Exhibition Series Partner
Exhibition Series Sponsors
Premier Exhibition Series Supporter
The Antinori Foundation
Sarah and Jim Kennedy
Louise Sams and Jerome Grilhot
Benefactor Exhibition Series Supporter
Anne Cox Chambers Foundation
Ambassador Exhibition Supporters
Tom and Susan Wardell
Contributing Exhibition Series Supporters
The Ron and Lisa Brill Family Charitable Trust
Lucinda W. Bunnen
Marcia and John Donnell
W. Daniel Ebersole and Sarah Eby-Ebersole
Robin and Hilton Howell
Mr. and Mrs. Baxter Jones
Margot and Danny McCaul
Generous support is also provided by
Alfred and Adele Davis Exhibition Endowment Fund, Anne Cox Chambers Exhibition Fund, Barbara Stewart Exhibition Fund, Marjorie and Carter Crittenden, Dorothy Smith Hopkins Exhibition Endowment Fund, Eleanor McDonald Storza Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Fay and Barrett Howell Exhibition Fund, Forward Arts Foundation Exhibition Endowment Fund, Helen S. Lanier Endowment Fund, Isobel Anne Fraser–Nancy Fraser Parker Exhibition Endowment Fund, John H. and Wilhelmina D. Harland Exhibition Endowment Fund, Katherine Murphy Riley Special Exhibition Endowment Fund, Margaretta Taylor Exhibition Fund, Massey Charitable Trust, RJR Nabisco Exhibition Endowment Fund, and Dr. Diane L. Wisebram