Art Review: ‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors’ at the High Museum

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“Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” at the High Museum of Art is already a blockbuster: 120,000 tickets were snapped up earlier this month and the exhibition is sold out for its entire run from Nov. 18 to Feb. 17. The only way to see “Infinity Mirrors” now is to stand in line for 100 daily walkup tickets that will go on sale an hour before the museum opens. May the odds be ever in your favor!

For those who have tickets, you are in for a treat. While the exhibition features a broad overview of the Japanese avant-garde artist’s work, including sculptures, paintings and works on paper, the stars of the show are the six mirror rooms scattered throughout the entire second floor of the High’s Wieland Pavilion.

But like any treat, it is fleeting. Visitors will have about 30 seconds in each mirror room, and while members of the media had the opportunity to go in each room alone, ticketholders will likely be inside with two or three other people. You might have to jockey for a selfie, but you will definitely want to bring your smartphone to capture the moment because it’s over in a blink. Still, even in 30 seconds, you’re likely to be awed and moved by what Kusama has achieved with her mirror rooms.

The rooms are unassumingly small white boxes, but like the TARDIS in “Doctor Who,” it’s bigger on the inside. Infinite, even. When the attendant closes the door, the immersion is total and complete. The most effective is “Infinity Mirrored Room – Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity,” where tubular lights suspended from the ceiling endlessly flicker in the dark giving the sensation of floating in space. I could have remained there for 30 minutes or three hours.

Similarly affecting is “Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” where you are plunged into darkness and colored lights wink on to create a galaxy of color.

The other four rooms take on a more whimsical tone, such as “Dots Obsession – Love Transformed into Dots” where you stand inside a giant, polkadot-covered pink ball full of smaller pink balls. Some visitors will be disappointed that no photos are allowed inside “Infinity Mirrored Room – All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins,” where you stand in a pumpkin patch of Kusama’s signature creations that are made of delicate glass easily shattered if you dropped your iPhone. Don’t worry – the gift shop is full of pumpkin motif souvenirs to take home.

The exhibition closes in a room that not only allows you to touch but to get interactive. “The Obliteration Room” is a stark white living room complete with tables, chairs, sofa, desk, television also painted white. As you enter, you’re handed a sheet of colorful round stickers and encouraged to place them wherever you want in the room. After 120,000+ people pass through, the whiteness will indeed be obliterated and what is left behind will be an explosion of Kusama’s dot obsession.

While you’re waiting your turn to get inside the mirror rooms, pay close attention the the sculptures – bizarre totems made of stuffed cotton, metal and acrylic paint – paintings and other work which offer precursors to Kusama’s mirror rooms.

Yayoi Kusama, who is 89 and still actively working in her Tokyo studio, created her first mirror room in 1965, long before the age of social media and selfies. As curator Mika Yoshitake noted in her opening remarks to the media, the mirror rooms are analog spaces in the age of virtual reality. Kusama’s prefiguring of the digital age with her infinitely Instagram-able art creates a visionary throughline for her storied career.

The High will be hosting a series of special events throughout the run of “Infinity Mirrors,” so be sure to visit high.org for all the details.

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