A Look into the Psyche of Kusama: "Infinity Mirrors" Opens in New York City

Photo by Savannah White

Photo by Savannah White

Two hours waiting in line in the cold is worth the experience of one of the world’s most surreal art exhibits. Japanese conceptual artist Yayoi Kusama brings her hallucinatory “Infinity Rooms,” presented in the exhibit Festival of Life, to New York City. Snapshots of her psyche are brought to life when viewers step into three-dimensional interactive installations. Her latest exhibit on display at the David Zwirner gallery attracts hordes of art lovers, critics and even those just in it for the Instagram picture.

The gallery is presenting two concurrent exhibitions of Kusama’s recent works spanning three gallery spaces. Festival of Life is located at 525 and 533 West 19th St. in Chelsea and Infinity Nets on 34 East 69th St. on the Upper East Side. These exhibitions also feature 66 paintings from her "My Eternal Soul" series and new bigger-than-life scale flower sculptures in a polka-dot environment. The exhibit lasts until Dec. 16.

Kusama’s artistic endeavours have spanned some of the most important art movements of the second half of the twentieth century including Minimalism and Pop art. At 89 years old, Kusama continues to impress audiences of all age-ranges. As an avant-garde artist, Kusama’s work is diverse and unique, containing sensory, utopian, hallucinatory, and obsessive themes. Possessing a deeply personal flair, her work spans paintings, performances, sculptural installations, literary works, films, fashion, design, room-size presentations, and architectural structures that appeal to a global audience.

With a time limit of only one minute, up to six people are invited to experience the first installation, “Infinity Mirrored Room: Let’s Survive Forever.” The room echoes Kusama’s earlier efforts but is expertly redone. Once inside, the echoing sounds of visitors suddenly dissipates. With dozens of mirrors and floor-to-ceiling dangling silver spheres, the hushed room provides a semi-private space to experience the work, shared only with up to six people at a time. A silvery infinity of orbs encapsulates the viewer, and in the center of the room is a peek-in box in which splintering becomes infinitesimal.

“My greatest desire is that my vision of a future external harmony among people be carried on.”

The first immersive exhibit encompasses the artist’s seemingly central obsession: infinity. Kusama's evident obsession with infinity possibly symbolizes the ineffable nature of a god not bound by spatial dimensions or of love and death, as hinted in many of the titles of her work. These themes are part of her creative outlet, which she has utilized from childhood to combat mental illness and express hallucinations.

“This strong sense of life force has in artistic expression is what supported me and gave me power to overcome feelings of depression, hopelessness, and sadness,” Kusama said in a self-published message to the Zwirner gallery this year.

The second installation, "I Want to Love on the Festival Night" (2017), is contained in a room with both the walls and floor painted black. In the center of the dark area is a hexagonal box containing three peepholes to view a mirrored interior that multiples a changing light show made up of hundreds of miniature light-bulbs.

Photo by Savannah White

Photo by Savannah White

“My greatest desire is that my vision of a future external harmony among people be carried on,” said Kusama

Her version of eternal harmony doesn’t end there— the sculptural installation "With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever" (2011) contains an infinite number of polka-dots. With its debut in the United States, the particular installation is a vibrant and immersive environment. The exhibit features oversized dream-like potted tulips in fiberglass-reinforced plastic painted with the same red polka dots seen on the floor, walls and ceiling. This immersive viewing experience is a sublime juxtaposition of two dimensions, essentially generating two exhibits in one.Through somewhat of an optical illusion, what appears to be a planar image at first, then emerges into it’s full-three dimensional depth creating a clever use of space and color.

The Chelsea show also contains a large gallery-lined room containing 66 double-hung canvases in a mixture of folk, outsider, and the art strut style of Kusama’s My Eternal Soul series, which originally began in 2008. All of the paintings are relatively recent works—most created since 2013. The paintings are brightly colored and depict a range of illustrations featuring mutations, eyes, dots, ellipses, and patterns that resemble contorted faces, fingerprints, and cell-like bubbles and creatures. The works seem to invite the viewer into Kusama’s subjective and nearly ecstatic state of mind.  

Kusama’s exhibit, Festival of Life, is a world-wide phenomenon. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience her visionary work.