Cleveland, OH (July 9, 2018) – Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors celebrates the legendary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s 65-year career. The exhibition spans the range of Kusama’s work, from her groundbreaking paintings and performances of the 1960s, when she staged polka-dot “Happenings” in the streets of New York, to her widely admired immersive installations and the U.S. debut of her recent series of paintings, My Eternal Soul. Visitors have the unprecedented opportunity to experience seven of Kusama’s captivating Infinity Mirror Rooms, including Where the Lights in My Heart Go (2016), exclusive to Cleveland. Additionally, a stunning array of large and vibrant paintings, sculptures, installations, works on paper and rare archival materials can also be seen. Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is on view in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Exhibition Hall and Gallery, and in the Ames Family Atrium, July 7 through September 30, 2018. The Cleveland Museum of Art is the only Midwest venue for Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors and one of only five U.S. venues to present this exhibition.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors highlights the evolution of Kusama’s immersive, reflective Infinity Mirror Rooms. Throughout her career, Kusama has produced more than 20 distinct Infinity Mirror Rooms, ranging from peep show-like chambers to expansive multimedia installations; each one offers the chance to enter a kaleidoscopic universe and experience an illusion of infinite space. Evoking the experience of virtual reality, the rooms demonstrate art’s ability to represent alternatives to everyday life using analog formats.
“This exhibition celebrates the remarkable career and enduring legacy of one of the most important living artists who continues to evolve and inspire as an artist and activist,” said Reto Thüring, curator of contemporary art and chair of modern, contemporary, decorative arts, and performing arts and film. “The show’s narrative spans the entire arc of Kusama’s groundbreaking oeuvre, from her early collages, paintings and sculptures, up to some of her most recent Infinity Mirror Rooms and architectural installations.”
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors begins with Ascension of Polka Dots on the Trees, for which trees, outside the museum and on historic Wade Oval, are wrapped in fabric covered with Kusama’s signature polka-dot motif. In the CMA’s light-filled atrium space, visitors will encounter the site-specific installation Narcissus Garden (1966 – present) as well as Where the Lights in My Heart Go (2016), the only Infinity Mirror Room to date that solely employs natural light. Together, these works form a dazzling array of reflective surfaces. In the special exhibition galleries, visitors will encounter many of Kusama’s most captivating Infinity Mirrored Rooms, from Phalli’s Field—the first room Kusama made in 1965—to The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away (2013), a room that is dimly lit by hundreds of LED lights that pulsate in varying rhythms. In addition, the paintings, collages, works on paper, sculptures and archival material on view span more than six decades of the artist’s career, illustrating her fascinating artistic journey.
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About Yayoi Kusama
Born in Matsumoto, Japan in 1929, Yayoi Kusama moved to the United States in 1957, settling in New York where she lived for fifteen years. Among New York’s avant-garde artists, she honed her unique artistic voice and began receiving widespread recognition. Working in her signature dot and net patterns, she made paintings and sculptures, as well as installations and live performance works. In 1965, Kusama integrated mirrors into her art for the first time, using the reflective material to line the interior of Infinity Mirrored Room—Phalli’s Field. Through the kaleidoscopic relationship between the mirrors and the materials inside the chamber, complex patterns emerged, appearing to extend infinitely in all directions. The concept of infinity has been a central interest for Kusama and the idea comes up frequently throughout her work across media. In 1973, Kusama returned to Tokyo, Japan, where she currently lives and continues to work tirelessly at age 89. In 1993, she was the first woman to have a solo presentation representing Japan at the Venice Biennale, and in 2016 Time magazine named her one of the world’s most influential people.
Installation view of Infinity Mirrored Room—Phalli’s Field (1965) at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Sewn stuffed cotton fabric, board, and mirrors. Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver
In 1965, Kusama began using mirrors to transcend the physical limitations of her own art making and achieve her vision of repeated phallic-shaped forms. She had spent the early 1960s sewing thousands of stuffed fabric tubers—a laborious process—and attaching them to furniture and found objects to create her Accumulation sculptures. In a breakthrough moment, she discovered that mirrors both reduced her physical labor and allowed her to create hallucinatory scenes of phallic surfaces by instantaneous repetition. The use of mirrors also produces a participatory experience, casting the visitor as the subject of the work. Creating these unending fields of polka-dotted phallic shapes was perhaps Kusama’s way of confronting her fear of sex. This work first appeared in the exhibition Floor Show, held at New York’s Castellane Gallery in 1965.
Infinity Mirrored Room—Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, black glass, and aluminum. Collection of the artist© Yayoi Kusama
Mesmerizing and intimate, Kusama’s installation explores the impermanence of life and the certitude of death. Flickering golden lanterns create a shimmering pattern of light that contrasts with the seemingly endless void of the mirrored black space. For Kusama, obliteration of the body (as it disappears here among the light and darkness) encourages contemplation of both the experience of death and the potential of the afterlife.
This work recalls the Japanese toro nagashi ceremony in which paper lanterns float down a river to guide ancestral spirits back to their resting places. Today, the ceremony often commemorates the victims of atomic bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the US in 1945.
The Obliteration Room, 2002 to present. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Furniture, white paint, and dot stickers; dimensions variable. Collaboration between Yayoi Kusama and Queensland Art Gallery. Commissioned Queensland Art Gallery, Australia. Gift of the artist through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2012. Collection: Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane, Australia. © Yayoi Kusama Photograph: QAGOMA.
One day, after gazing at a pattern of red flowers on the tablecloth, I looked up to see that the ceiling, the windows, and the columns seemed to be plastered with the same red floral pattern. I saw the entire room, my entire body, and the entire universe covered with red flowers, and in that instant my soul was obliterated and I was restored, returned to infinity, to eternal time and absolute space. —Yayoi Kusama
In The Obliteration Room, Kusama provides colorful dot stickers that visitors can use to eliminate the traces of the original white room through the act of communal “obliteration.” Recalling Kusama’s earlier polka-dotted environments and her performances that activated bodies through participation, this installation demonstrates her utopian desire for radical connectivity, which she has described as “a way to free each individual and simultaneously reconnect them in mutual obligation.” In this space, the polka dot acts as a universal equalizer, a connector between all of us as we collectively participate in obliterating the environment by placing dots in the installation.
Infinity Mirrored Room––The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013. Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system; 287.6 x 415.3 x 415.3 cm. Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama
In Kusama’s exploration of the transience of life and the inevitability of death, this installation creates a harmonious and quiet place for you to contemplate your existence, reflect on the passage of time, and think about your relationship to the outside world. Generating a repetitive illusion through lights and mirrors, this installation fosters an out-of-body experience while heightening your senses. The galaxy of hundreds of LED lights flicker in a rhythmic pattern that seems to suspend both space and time. You become integral to this work as your body completes the environment while simultaneously vanishing into the infinite space.
The Cleveland Museum of Art will offer weekly ticket sales for Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors on Mondays throughout the run of the exhibition beginning Monday, July 16, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., or until tickets sell out. On this day only, tickets will be available for purchase for any open date and time slot. After July 16, tickets sold during the weekly ticket sales will only include a date and time for that week. The week of Labor Day (Monday, September 3), ticket sales will occur on Tuesday, September 4.
The museum recommends reserving tickets through its website by visiting ClevelandArt.org/Kusama. Tickets can also be reserved by phone at 216-421-7350. There will be no on-site ticket sales.
Tickets are $30 for adults, $15 for children 6–17, and free for children 5 and under (limit 2 children up to age 17 per adult ticket).
Tickets are nontransferable and nonrefundable. Ticket holders must present their government-issued ID card at the time of entry. CMA members must also provide their valid membership card. Membership account must be active through the date of the ticket.
Generously illustrated, Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors explores Yayoi Kusama’s best known and most spectacular series—the Infinity Mirror Rooms—and its influence on the course of contemporary art over the past 50 years. Kusama’s iconic Infinity Mirror Rooms, which originated in 1965 with Phalli’s Field, situate viewers in kaleidoscopic spaces filled with multicolored lights or whimsical forms. This publication invites readers to examine the series’ impact over the course of the artist’s career. Accompanying essays, an interview with the artist, and a scholarly chronology round out the catalogue, which can be purchased for $49.95 at the Cleveland Museum of Art’s store.
July 7 through September 30, FREE
North Court Lobby
Open during normal business hours, staffed 10:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
Visitors can stop in, ask questions, and talk about their experience in Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. A selection of books are available for browsing.
July 7 through September 30
The Studio Go Truck will appear at events around town with Kusama-inspired art activities throughout the summer.
Kusama Connections Self-Guided Tour
Visit the Kusama Lounge in the North Court Lobby to get a brochure that explores themes from the exhibition in the permanent collection galleries.
Kusama Connections Docent Tours
July 10 through September 30
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Sundays, 2:00 p.m., FREE
Join a CMA-trained volunteer docent for special themed tours of the permanent collection that explore museum highlights related to Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors. Tours limited to 30. Admission to the exhibition is not included.
Sunday, July 16, 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., FREE
Ames Family Atrium
What better way to celebrate summer than with a pattern-filled picnic? Expect art making, music, and games. Outside the museum, stop by the mobile art studio, Studio Go, and jump from one activity to another on our art-inspired hopscotch. Also enjoy a reading by Ellen Weinstein, award-winning illustrator of Yayoi Kusama: From Here to Infinity! at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Book signing outside the Museum Store at noon and 2:00 p.m. Copies will be available for purchase at the Museum Store.
July 3 through September 30, gallery 224b (video project room), FREE
Made in 1967, this film has a psychedelic atmosphere and a nonlinear narrative reflecting the social and political mood of the time. Kusama is seen painting dots on landscapes, animals, and her body. Cinematography by Jud Yalkut.
Friday, August 31, 7:00 p.m.
Morley Lecture Hall, $10, CMA members $7
Directed by Joseph Cornell. This program contains seven experimental short films by the celebrated assemblage artist who was perhaps Yayoi Kusama’s closest American friend in New York City. Program includes Cornell’s seminal found-footage masterpiece Rose Hobart, as well as The Aviary, Centuries of June, Angel, Fable for Fountains, Nymphlight, and Children’s Party. (USA, 1937–57, b&w/color, DVD, 82 min.)
All films © 1995 The Museum of Modern Art and shown courtesy MoMA.
Filmmaker in Person September 22 and 23!
Fridays, September 14 and 21, 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, September, 22, 1:30 p.m.
Sunday, September 23, 1:30 p.m.
Gartner Auditorium, $12, CMA members $9
Tuesday, September 25 through Friday, September 28, 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 5:00 p.m., 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30, 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m.
Morley Lecture Hall, $12, CMA members $9
Directed by Heather Lenz. Yayoi Kusama’s life and work are surveyed in this acclaimed new documentary made by a former resident of northeast Ohio. (USA, 2018, color, Blu-ray, 80 min.)
Visit cma.org/film for updates.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Michelle Shan & Richard Jeschelnig
Baker Hostetler, Donna and Stewart Kohl, and the John P. Murphy Foundation
The Cleveland Museum of Art is supported in part by Cuyahoga County residents through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. The Ohio Arts Council helped fund this exhibition with state tax dollars to encourage economic growth, educational excellence, and cultural enrichment for all Ohioans.
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