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Yayoi Kusama's Artwork Beyond Infinity Rooms

By Melody Yuan

Oct. 19, 2017
All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, Yayoi Kusama
"All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins," 2016. Wood, mirror, plastic, black glass, LED. © Yayoi Kusama. Image provided by The Broad.

Inside look at the complete Yayoi Kusama exhibit making a colorful splash in Los Angeles.

Earlier this month, The Broad Museum sold out 50,000 tickets in less than an hour for the upcoming “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” exhibition. While the biggest hype of the exhibit has been about the six Infinity Mirror Rooms that will be on display, there’s so much more, including sculptures, paintings and other installations that cover the entire first floor of the museum. We’ve spoken to the team at The Broad to dive deeper into this unique exhibition. Here’s what you didn’t know about the Yayoi Kusama’s career and the evolution of her infinity concept.

Much of this exhibition’s anticipation and success is attributed to the museum’s existing Kusama installation, “Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away,” which has been featured everywhere, from singer Adele’s music video, to the Instagram posts of LA socialites.

“Kusama’s work has really become a big part of our identity since we opened about two years ago,” says Sarah Loyer, assistant curator at The Broad. “Having an exhibit that showcases the history of those infinity mirror rooms just seemed like a great fit for us here.” The exhibit will feature all six of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, from her first one in 1965, “Phalli’s Field,” to her most recent room, “All The Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins,” which was completed just last year.

"There’s a lot to look at, and we hope that visitors will really be able to appreciate the breadth of her work on display."

- Sarah Loyer

The show itself has been organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., and curated by their curator, Mika Yoshitake. With a vision to display the evolution of Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms, the collection gives the audience a more holistic understanding of Kusama’s infinity theory and her work at large. “These rooms have gained so much attention via social media in recent years, and it’s really exciting to see how these art pieces are gaining a new life and audience,” says Loyer. “This exhibit will help contextualize what it meant to create these works within experimental media practices in the mid-1960s and will be very fruitful for our audiences who are engaged with Kusama and her installation already on display here.”

The concept of Infinity and Yayoi Kusama’s supporting artwork

Shifting the focus beyond the Infinity Mirror Rooms is important in Yayoi Kusama’s narrative as an artist. Kusama’s pieces provide a holistic worldview. As Loyer puts it, “It’s her way of describing the experience of being alive” because the concept of infinity reflects the idea of locating yourself as an individual within an infinite time and space.

One series to pay attention to when visiting the exhibition is Kusama’s ”Accumulation” sculptures. These soft sculptures made of sewn and stuffed fabric were first created in the early 1960s. In an installation called “One Thousand Boats Show,” Kusama displayed an actual rowboat covered with the sculptures, then had silkscreen reproductions of images of the rowboat plastered from floor to ceiling. The installation was her first immersive art installation centered around repetition, and the experience gave way to her first Infinity Mirror Room, “Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field,” in 1965. This room, featured in the upcoming exhibit, also features the soft ”Accumulation” sculptures that resemble phallic objects covering the entire floor.

“This piece is important because it showed that Kusama’s transition from the physical reproduction of sewing and stuffing tubers, to a mechanical reproduction with the silkscreen, and, finally, to a more visual reproduction with mirrors,” says Loyer. “Throughout all of these reproductions, though, the concept of infinity and repetition has been at the core.”

Another supporting body of work that demonstrates Kusama’s talent is the Infinity Net paintings, created in the late 1950s. The medium is oil paint featuring tiny circular markings in one or two colors that are repeated throughout the canvas. “We’ll actually have a whole gallery that’s dedicated to these paintings, and we have several that are specific to our venue and exclusive at The Broad,” says Loyer.

"The entire first floor will be dedicated to the 'Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors' exhibit for the duration of the show."

- Sarah Loyer

Yayoi Kusama, The Hill painting
Yayoi Kusama, "The Hill"

With some Infinity Net paintings being massive, Kusama was said to work herself to the point of exhaustion. The Broad will be showing her piece called “Off-Cut of Infinity Net Painting,” which is a 33-foot long strip of canvas. This title emerged when she had a solo art show in New York City in the 1960s and had to cut off a portion of her Infinity Net painting because it was too large to fit on the exhibition wall. The piece that was cut off from the bottom of the painting will be featured in this exhibition. “You really get a sense of the artist’s labor, while also having that immersive physical experience looking at the markings,” says Loyer. “I compare it to staring at the ocean.”

With the entire first floor dedicated to the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” special exhibition, visitors can expect to have an entirely immersive visual experience. The rooms themselves emulate a dream-like world that will call attention to an existential awareness. “There’s a lot to look at,” says Loyer, “and we hope that visitors will really be able to appreciate the breadth of her work on display.”

The traveling exhibition

The Broad is the third of six venues to display this survey of Kusama’s work in North America. The traveling art exhibition began at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., moved cross-country to the Seattle Art Museum, and is now moving south to Los Angeles. The exhibition will then go to the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and will finish at the High Museum in Atlanta. According to Yoshitake, the curator of the exhibition, it was the artist’s desire to have a show that would be featured across North America.

Kusama, Infinity Mirrored Room - Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity
Yayoi Kusama, "Infinity Mirrored Room - Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity"
"These rooms have gained so much attention via social media in recent years, and it’s really exciting to see how these art pieces are gaining a new life and audience."

- Sarah Loyer

According to Loyer, the museum has been in dialogue with Yoshitake and representatives from the Hirshhorn for well over a year and a half. “The way that we’ve structured our installations is such that our third floor will remain our permanent collection display, while our first floor will feature special rotating exhibitions,” says Loyer. “The entire first floor will be dedicated to the ’Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors’ exhibition for the duration of the show.” The exhibition is set to begin its installation process this month with “Infinity Mirror Rooms” being dispersed throughout the space, along with many of Kusama’s other installations, paintings and sculptures. “There will be a lot to see in addition to the six ‘Infinity Mirror Rooms,’” says Loyer.

This is the first exhibition that dives into the history of Kusama’s concept of “Infinity Mirror Rooms,” and one that shows the most “Infinity Mirror Rooms” and supporting artworks together in one location. Most of the art pieces in the exhibit have been borrowed and collected from different venues. The pairings in the show are thematic, and visitors will be able to see the idea of infinity running throughout the exhibition. The catalogue explaining Kusama’s artwork has also received high praise and features an extensive timeline of her work.

East West Bank is Leading Partner of the Broad.

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