Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors”

I was privileged to see the traveling exhibition “Infinity Mirrors” by legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama at the Cleveland Museum of Art earlier this month. Usually my blog posts focus on my words, rather than photos, but this time it makes sense to allow some of the pictures I took to – mostly – speak for themselves.

This 50-year retrospective of her work opened at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC, in 2017 and CMA is one of just five venues across the U.S. and Canada where Kusama’s remarkable exhibition can be seen. After it ends here on Sunday, the show will travel for its last stop at Atlanta’s High Museum from November 18 to February 17.

02 Kusama pumpkin AnOther Magazine
Photo of the artist with one of her signature, ethereal pumpkins – photo from AnOther Magazine

To give you just a tiny bit of background, Yayoi Kusama was born in 1929 in Japan and moved to the U.S. in 1958, just in time to become a part of the Andy Warhol, Pop Art culture in New York City. She was mentored by Georgia O’Keefe and became a fixture in the early 60’s hippie scene, creating political performance art, painting polka dots on nude models in public places like Central Park. Reportedly, she offered to sleep with Richard Nixon if he’d put an end to the Viet Nam war.

She was both inspired and emotionally troubled by growing up with an abusive mother and philandering father. Kusama committed herself to an asylum upon returning to Japan in 1977 and has been living there by choice ever since. Her studio is nearby, where she continues to create in a variety of media most days.

Following are photos I took when my buddy Ginny and I visited “Infinity Mirrors” a few weeks ago.

02 Narcissists garden wide
The silver balls are called “Narcissists Garden” and were on display in the atrium at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The box to the right was a tiny installation of infinity mirrors and lights. That art piece is owned by a Cleveland collector and sits in the back yard of their estate. Cleveland is the only place that it is on public display.
02 Narcissists close
I see myself taking photos in each shiny sphere, explaining the “garden’s” name.
02 infinity penises
I mentioned Kusama’s cheating father. Well, her mother used to send Yayoi to spy on him, causing trauma and a hatred for men and their sexual organs. Here we are in a very phallic mirrored room. Do the polka dots signify blood? I don’t know.
02 armchair
Kusama loaded up an easy chair with shoes and (mostly) distorted penises. A baby carriage had more of the same. That’s it for my phallic observations here. Very creepy.
02 dot bike
In one interactive exhibit, an all- white room was plastered with multicolored dots. We were given our own little sheet of dot stickers to add dots wherever we wanted to. You barely can see the bicycle and boot in this picture.
02 Ginny dots
Ginny strikes a pose in the dot room!
02 Kasuma bright sculptures
There were at least a dozen sculptures like these, and paintings,  photographs — just an explosion of shapes and colors throughout the exhibition.
02 Kasuma me pink
Me with an infinity of hot pink spheres with black polka dots. These seem joyous to me, but Kusama calls her dots “infinity nets” and uses them sometimes to all but obliterate the objects and people beneath.
02 peep hole
Visitors stand outside a large box and look in to see the lights change colors and multiply in the mirrors. You can see me holding up my camera to take the picture. Beautiful and mesmerizing.

Finally, I hope you’ll enjoy a small clip I filmed inside one of the boxes.

For each experience, no more than two or three people at a time could enter a box and museum staff timed the visit to be exactly 30 seconds. We were allowed to take photos inside all of the boxes except for the one with the pumpkins. Each pumpkin was so fragile, if someone turned and accidentally stepped on or bumped and damaged one, it couldn’t be easily replaced. A museum guard entered that space with each viewing.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the remarkable “Infinity Mirrors” retrospective of work by the amazing Yahoi Kusama.




10 thoughts on “Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrors”

  1. Thanks for your comments and photos, Kate. You captured the show beautifully because it’s hard to describe. I was mesmerized by the exhibit.

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