Tess Eyrich 2017-09-05 10:08:03
A career-spanning retrospective of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s work arrives at The Broad museum in downtown Los Angeles. When the long-awaited Broad museum opened its doors in downtown Los Angeles in fall 2015, a glass-lined chamber called the “Infinity Mirrored Room” quickly gained traction as the two-story space’s most attention-grabbing installation. Designed by the now 88-year-old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama, the immersive piece, first unveiled in 2013, invites visitors inside one by one for a singular experience that sees each viewer’s reflection— plus those of scores of twinkling LED lights suspended over pools of water—reflected into a seemingly never-ending abyss. “Kusama’s ‘Infinity Mirrored Room’ is her only work that’s part of our permanent collection, but it’s become such a big aspect of our museum’s identity,” says Sarah Loyer, an assistant curator at The Broad who recently spearheaded the installation of the museum’s newest exhibition, a career-encompassing retrospective that features six of Kusama’s well-known “infinity rooms,” plus a comprehensive selection of drawings, paintings and sculptures dating back to her entry into New York’s avant-garde art scene in the late 1950s. “The way our visitors interact with the ‘Infinity Mirrored Room’ has been so important since we opened,” Loyer continues. “A larger show is a great fit for us because it contextualizes that particular piece within Kusama’s greater body of work.” During the special exhibition’s initial run at the Smithsonian Institution’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., the exhibition attracted nearly 160,000 viewers over a span of just under three months (Instagram users, meanwhile, posted a whopping 34,000 images of themselves interacting with the exhibition during the same period). Likewise, it’s hard to imagine the show being anything other than a massive success when it debuts this October inside the social mediafriendly Broad. Although some critics have derided Kusama’s installations as little more than extravagant backdrops for photos that’ll later be posted on social media accounts, curators like Loyer insist there’s more to the story. “Throughout her career, Kusama has continuously referred to the concept of ‘self-obliteration,’ which is a way of radically connecting to other people through infinite repetition,” Loyer explains, noting that Kusama’s penchant for repetition allows the artist, who’s famously resided in a Tokyo psychiatric institution on a voluntary basis since the mid-1970s, to grapple with lifelong neuroses including obsessive-compulsive disorder and hallucinations. “As a viewer, you experience Kusama’s concept of self-obliteration in these infinity rooms when you see yourself infinitely replicated with lights or other objects or even people that are also infinitely replicated,” Loyer adds. “You almost dissolve, which is something that really relates to our contemporary social media spaces: Picture-sharing has become another form of infinite replication.” The exhibit will run from October 2017 through January 2018. (213-232-6200; thebroad.org) The fall 2015 unveiling of Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room” (2013) inside The Broad sparked “a resurgence in the artist’s popularity” in Southern California, says Sarah Loyer, assistant curator to the museum. The reservation-only installation is on view through Sept. 30 but will go dark during the larger six-room exhibition’s run. This page, clockwise from top left: Yayoi Kusama’s “Infinity Mirrored Room.” The artist splits her time between the Tokyo psychiatric hospital she calls home and her studio, where on a near-daily basis she continues to produce pieces known for their repetitive patterns. Yellow polka-dotted gourds are the stars of Kusama’s 2016 installation “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.” Pieces like “Flower” (1975) take viewers beyond the infinity room and instead shine spotlights on Kusama’s earlier experimentations with pastels, ink and fabric. This page, clockwise from top left: “The Hill” (1953) is an example of work made prior to the artist’s relocation to the United States in 1957. A major highlight of the exhibition is the “Obliteration Room ” (2002), a white-walled space whose interiors guests are encouraged to cover in thousands of colorful dot stickers a la Kusama. The installation room for “All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins.” Kusama painting in her wheelchair.
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