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  • Writer's pictureDani Sauter

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors x Hirshhorn

Ok friends, the most amazing thing that has ever hit DC is currently at my favorite museum in all of DC, the Hirshhorn, and opens to the public tomorrow, February 23. What is this amazing thing? Yayoi Kusama’s Infinite Mirrors Exhibit. If you’ve never heard of Yayoi Kusama, she is a famous Japanese modern artist who is know for her play on infinite themes and polka dots. Thanks to the Hirshhorn Museum, I was invited to a private viewing of the exhibit last night with a handful of other local area bloggers, artists, and creatives, and HOLY SH*T- this exhibit blew my mind.

Yayoi Kusama Phalli's Field

"Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos. Polka dots are a way to infinity."-Yayoi Kusama

Kusama's Infinity Mirrors are symbolic of infinity- they offer the illusion of infinite space in a visually stunning environment. The rooms are small, but make your emotions high. You’ll see yourself hundreds of times in the reflection of the mirrored box and the lights and visual installations will make your perceptions roar. On display are 6 of the Infinity Mirror Rooms- the most that have ever been shown together. The rooms all represent something from Kusama’s life or represent the meaning of life and its aftermath. For example, the Infinity Mirror Room- Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity (2009), represents death and the afterlife, with lanterns hung throughout the room that dim and glow, representative of the Japanese Tradition of toro nagashi, lighted lanterns that are placed in the river to guide spirits back to their place of peace and rest during the summer obon festival. This was my favorite room, as it made me feel peaceful- and also made me think of my mom.

The exhibit opens with artwork from the artist- some of which has never before been on display (above images). The first installation is Infinity Mirror Room- Phalli’s Field (1965/2016). This installation is considered to be Kusama’s most important breakthrough as an artist and casts the visitor as the subject of the work- in a field of phallic symbols (yep) seen over and over again in the mirrored reflection. This is also the most brightly lit room, so if you’re looking for really good pictures- this is the room to do so… a sea of red polka dotted phallic symbols. (I’m sorry, but the humor here gets to me, lol).

Next is the Infinity Mirrored Room- Love Forever (1966/1994), formatted like a peep show, where you only look into the installation with your eyes. The bright lights within the room activated a sense of happiness for me and gave me circus or Vegas vibes, but the real meaning behind this artwork named “Love Forever” stands for civil rights, sexual liberation, the antiwar movement, and the activist groups of the 1960s.

Following this, is my other fave, Infinity Mirrored Room- The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013). This one represents the galaxy- it seems as if you are among stars in outer space and the lights in the room flicker in a pattern to suspend space and time, while your reflection vanishes into the infinite space. This room is supposed to make visitors reflect on their existence, reflect on the passage of time, and think about their relationship with the outer world. This one was another fave- as I was completely enamored with all the flashing lights.

From Infinity to Dots…the next installation is the Dots Obsession- Love Transformed into Dots (2007, installed 2017). This room is full of pink and black polka dot balloons, used to disrupt the viewers path. The work represents contrasting scales- the smallness of the space (and tiny sized space as seen through the peephole of a balloon- outside of the room), mixed with the largeness of the mirrored room where the balloons are life-sized and go on infinitely.

After the dot room, is the Infinity Mirrored Room- Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity (2009), which I covered above, followed by the last Infinity Mirrored Room- All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016). This one made my heart light. In this installation, Kusama used pumpkins- a symbol from her childhood after visiting a seed-harvesting farm, which she took to like due to their unpretentious and organic shape. In the room, you are surrounded by infinite pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, all decorated with the Yusama polka dot. What I liked about this one, was the light-heartedness and the play on how her childhood still influences her work. The exhibit then closes with a stark white room- The Obliteration Room (2002- present, installed 2017) where you are given polka dot stickers to place wherever you’d like, making each and every visitor a part of the artistic process.

"It seems pumpkins do not inspire much respect. But I was enchanted by their charming and winsome form. What appealed to me most was the pumpkin's generous unpretentiousness. That and its solid spiritual base." -Yayoi Kusama

So what do you need to know before going?

1. Well first, you need tickets. The tickets are free on the Hirshhorn website and are timed- meaning you’ll be assigned a time to enter the exhibit. Tickets are made available for the following week each Monday at noon, or earlier if you're a Hirshhorn member. PSA: get your tickets NOW/set your alarm for this coming Monday. I’m sure this exhibit is going to be even bigger than the chaos we Washingtonians know as the Renwick Gallery Wonder Exhibit, so score your tickets ASAP.

2. You will be given 20 seconds in each room. This will go by in the blink of an eye, so do some research/social media stalking to see the rooms and get some ideas on a picture or pose you want and go in with your camera ready. I will say, my iPhone was best for the darker rooms as my Nikon took too long to focus, except for in the Phalli's Field and Love Forever. We were given 60 seconds in the rooms for the preview and that still flew by- so have a photo game plan.

3. While I know you’ll want all the pictures because the rooms are legit amazing, use one room to fully take in the experience. I did this in the lantern room- and only used about half the time for pictures, as this one to me was the most symbolic. Its definitely worth it, so pick one in advance and just take in the experience.

4. In terms of lines- I foresee long lines and lots of waiting time to enter each room. That said, the Hirshhorn staff is extremely organized so I think the lines will flow well. They said they’ll be letting in 100 people every 15 minutes with timed tickets, so brace yourself and have patience- but don’t let that steer you off. This experience is amazing and hands-down needs to be experienced by everyone and anyone and will be worth the wait.

Thank you, Hirshhorn, for inviting me to this preview. I was honored to be your guest for the evening.

(Disclaimer: The Hirshhorn website was used as a reference throughout this post)


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