It’s been 362 days since Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors debuted at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., but Mika Yoshitake, the exhibition’s curator, is still going. Having travelled with the exhibition from Washington to Seattle and then LA, she’s here now overseeing the installation of an exhibition years in the making. On Wednesday, February 28, she’ll speak to a sold-out audience in Baillie Court about the exhibition. You can catch that conversation live on the AGO Facebook page, beginning at 7 pm.
We caught up with Mika in one of her rare free moments to get a few details about the exhibition that has us infinitely excited.
AGO: When were you first introduced to Kusama’s work?
Mika: I grew up in Los Angeles and first saw Kusama’s work from her New York years at LACMA in the summer of 1998. I was studying contemporary art history as an undergraduate and then went on to specialize in postwar Japanese art, so it was an inspirational exhibition for me.
AGO: Has seeing the exhibition installed in different spaces changed your appreciation of the work in any way?
Mika: Yes. Even though I conceived the show as a selected survey of the Infinity Mirror Rooms, each museum venue activates the rooms, works and their relationships in different ways. The high ceilings at the AGO beautifully showcase the giant dome and suspended balloons in Dots Obsession, while the early works are featured in intimate spaces that allow you to really take a closer look at her brush marks. My Eternal Souls (the most recent series of paintings) and the evolving spatial relationships between the paintings with the soft sculptures at each venue fascinate me and prove how versatile Kusama’s work is.
AGO: Visitors to the exhibition move between Infinity Mirror Rooms and paintings, murals, works on paper and sculptures. Is it your hope visitors will think of each room as a summation of what has come before it or is each intended, like rooms in a house, to lead into the next?
Mika: The exhibition is a selected survey of works and does have a rough chronology, featuring six distinct Infinity Mirror Rooms, some historic and some contemporary. The catalogue contains a record of every single Infinity Mirror Room she has created up to 2016. The other works were selected because they are consistent with themes that are central to the Infinity Mirror Rooms, such as shifts in scale from the microscopic to cosmological and the cathartic perceptual experience one senses from the physicality of the artist’s labour (whether in the endless gestures of marking dots or nets, or the stuffing and sewing her accumulation sculptures). Through the exhibition here is a natural progression from the handmade, to photographic reproduction, to using mirrors to activate her vision of repetition. But these themes are meant to be felt organically. There is no one way to see the show.
AGO: What’s been the greatest challenge in mounting this exhibition?
Mika: The minutiae of upkeep and maintenance of each of the Infinity Mirror Rooms throughout the six venues, as well as rotating some works on the checklist, especially the works on paper, which can only handle limited light exposure.
AGO: Kusama’s work lends itself so well to social media. What is her relationship to it? Does she have any interest in it?
Mika: I do know she takes the greatest joy in knowing that her art has reached so many people. I believe the rapid dissemination of her images aligns with her own art of infinite repetition and connectivity, which are unexpected extensions of her practice.
Stay tuned for part two of our interview with Mika!
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