Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Yayoi Kasuma: Infinity Mirrors" at Seattle Art Museum: Jun 30 - Sept 10

Following its debut at the Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, the retrospective of Yayoi Kusama's painting, sculptural and installation work will travel to four major museums in the United States and Canada, including the Seattle Art Museum, The Broad in Los Angeles, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. From experiences had at the Broad and it's "Infinity Mirrored Room: The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away" of 2015, with overwhelming demand and inaccessibility by those who purchased tickets, the current touring exhibition hopes to curb such issues with a explicitly finite number of tickets offered for scheduled times and limited duration viewings of each installation. The Hirshhorn became the testing ground for this format, finding that even with the severe limitation put on time in each of the Infinity Rooms, patrons were engaging in distracted activities, leading to damage to the installation. From their example, we can hope that Seattle Art Museum has created a structure for programming the highest qualitative experience for it's patrons as "Yayoi Kasuma: Infinity Mirrors" arrives for it's two month engagement this July. Working concurrently with the then developing Gutai movement in Japan, Kusama produced her own idiosyncratic paintings in a style incorporating abstracted natural forms in watercolor, gouache and oil, primarily on paper. This work came to develop in a fashion outside of the canvas, with a growing disregard for traditional materials and setting. Her focus on repeating abstract patters and polka dots expanded to cover the surfaces of walls, floors, cloth materials, and later, household objects and human figures. Leaving Japan in 1956, a brief stint in the Northwest followed, during which her correspondence with notable American painter Georgia O'Keeffe led to connections in the New York Minimalist and Fluxus scenes of the early 1960s.

By 1961 Kusama had relocated to New York, coming to share a studio in the same building as installation artists and sculptors Donald Judd and Eva Hess. Kusama's own work developed over this period, expanding to include everyday objects such as ladders, shoes and furnishings who's surfaces where redolent with the sculptural recrudesce of phallic protrusions. Initially white and monochrome, and later in metallic and again, polka dot configurations. During this time Kusama struck up a friendship with assemblage and experimental filmmaker Joseph Cornell, which came to be a source of lasting and often daily conversations and correspondence with the senior artist and creative mentor. A span of time also marked by notable shows with figures from the Pop Art movement, a brief compatriotship with Andy Warhol and inclusion in high profile exhibitions including the 1966 Venice Biennale with her "Narcissus Garden". It was with the breakthrough of her 1965 "Infinity Mirror Room: Phalli’s Field" that came to define the larger direction of her life's body of work. Utilizing mirrored walls in a controlled and enclosed space, Kusama escalated the focused repetition of her earlier paintings and works into a seemingly endless perceptual landscape. In the decades since the advances of her first installation of it's kind, the artist has produced more than twenty distinct Infinity Mirror Rooms as a series of "Vivid Hallucinations from a Fragile Life". The Hirshhorn exhibition of this past year presented six of these works, the largest number of such pieces shown simultaneously together, making it the first retrospective of it's kind. From the Hirshhorn: "Ranging from peep-show-like chambers to multimedia installations, each of Kusama’s kaleidoscopic environments offers the chance for the viewer to have a vantage into the illusion of infinite space. By tracing the development of these iconic installations alongside a selection of her other key artworks, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors aims to reveal the significance of the Infinity MIrror Rooms amidst today’s renewed interest in experiential practices and virtual spaces."