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Beyond Infinity

February 5th, 2018

Yayoi Kusama wears a red wig and purple polka dotted dress in a gallery surrounded by her sculptures and paintings.

Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016. Courtesy of the artist © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Tomoaki Makino.

Throughout her over 70-year career, Yayoi Kusama has invited audiences to participate in her pioneering visions of infinity, time and space, and challenged how we think about ourselves in this world and beyond.

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors, on view at the AGO from March 3 to May 27, will be a once-in-a-lifetime show. Drawing unprecedented response with over 100,000 tickets already sold, this exhibition will offer visitors the chance to experience six Infinity Mirror Rooms. But besides these rooms, there will be many other fascinating works to see, illuminating the full career of this celebrated artist.

Here’s a sneak peek at what visitors will find:

Yayoi Kusama. Infinity, 1952. Ink on paper, 23.2 × 30.3 cm. Collection of the artist. © Yayoi Kusama.

Works on Paper: Infinity, 1952

Kusama’s early drawings are intimate, organic worlds that she later expanded on in her Infinity Mirror Rooms. She produced these small-scale works in rapid succession, while living in her hometown of Matsumoto, Japan. This ink on paper drawing shows Kusama’s motif of infinity and dots from the very beginning of her artistic career.

Inside one of Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Rooms, with mirror walls that reflect a floor of soft white and red polka-dotted sculptures on and on.

Yayoi Kusama, Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field, 1965. Installation view at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Sewn stuffed cotton fabric, board, and mirrors. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Accumulation and Infinity Mirror Rooms: Infinity Mirror Room – Phalli’s Field, 1965–2016 (Floor Show)

In 1965, Kusama began using mirrors to overcome some of the physical limits of her art and to achieve her vision of repeated phallic-shaped forms. She spent the early ‘60s stuffing and sewing fabric tubes and attaching them by the thousands to furniture, found objects and wall hangings for her Accumulation sculptures—four of which you’ll see in the exhibition, including one in the Infinity Mirror RoomPhalli’s Field. These unending fields of polka-dotted phallic shapes are Kusama’s way of confronting her fear of sex.

 

Yayoi Kusama. Searching for Love, 2013. Acrylic on canvas. Collection of Miyoung Lee and Neil Simpkins. Courtesy of David Zwirner, New York; Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore; Victoria Miro, London © Yayoi Kusama.

Recent Paintings: Searching for Love, 2013

“What death signifies, its colours and spatial beauty, the quietude of its footprints, and the nothingness after death: I am now at the stage of creating art for the repose of my soul, embracing all of these.” – Yayoi Kusama

Beginning in 2009, this ongoing series includes more than 500 works (not all will be shown in Infinity Mirrors). With titles that often reference love and life, birth and death, the pieces express Kusama’s continuing exploration of infinity and the sublime through repetition and pattern. Packed with vibrant colours and bold designs, the works echo the organic shapes from her earliest works on paper and recall the expansive vision of her Infinity Mirror Rooms. The recurring motif of peering eyes, awakened to the wonders of time and space, are reminders that we are not alone in the universe, but are surrounded by memories, souls and spirits. Today, Kusama continues to create these paintings daily in her Tokyo studio.

Narcissus Garden, installation view at Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden 2016. (C) YAYOI KUSAMA, courtesy YAYOI KUSAMA Inc.

Sculptural Installations: Narcissus Garden, 1966–present

“The silver ball is also representative of the moon, of sunshine, of peace. In essence it symbolizes the union of man and nature. When the people see their own reflection multiplied to infinity they then sense that there is no limit to man’s ability to project himself into endless space.” – Yayoi Kusama

As an additional presentation, the AGO will be showing Kusama’s installation Narcissus Garden in Signy Eaton Gallery from February 24 to April 29 (free with admission). In this version, 1,355 stainless steel spheres make up an infinite mirrored field that distorts and duplicates your reflection (and others’) as you move through it. The work was first installed in 1966 for the 33rd Venice Biennale, an international art exhibition occurring every two years. Kusama originally intended to sell the orbs to Biennale patrons for $2 each; a sign, “Your Narcissism for Sale”, accompanied the piece—a playful commentary on consumerism in the art world.

Don’t have Kusama tickets yet? The next opportunity for tickets to Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors is March 27 at 10 am for the public or March 20 at 10 am for AGO Members. Online only.

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