Infinity Mirrors: Yayoi Kusama

The most talked about event in Toronto for the last few weeks has been Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors exhibit at the AGO. As the only Canadian stop on the exhibition tour, you have undoubtedly seen many perplexing and mesmerizing selfies of her various “rooms” flood your social media feeds.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Mirrors

Yayoi Kusama

When I heard that the exhibit was coming to Toronto I was probably more intrigued than excited since admittedly, I didn’t know much about the artist or the exhibit itself.  Once I started looking into it,  I could see why the hype was so intense.

Background on Yayoi Kusama:

  • Yayoi Kusama is a Japanese contemporary artist whose work ranges from sculpture, installation, painting and performance
  • She had a troublesome upbringing with an abusive mother and womanizing father
  • Her mother would often send her to spy on her father’s extra martial affairs which manifested in her complicated relationship with sexuality and sex.  This is seen through much of her work
  • When she was 10 years old she started to suffer from hallucinations many of which centered around “dense fields of dots”. These polka dots would eventually become a central theme in her art
  • She moved to New York in the early 60’s and was a part of the avant-garde scene, especially the pop-art movement
  • She is most renowned for organizing public demonstrations during the “hippie movement” where naked participants were painted with brightly colored dots
  • In the early 70s she moved back to Japan where she focused on her writing but became quite ill. She checked herself into a mental hospital where she eventually took up permanent residence
  • Through the 80s and 90s her work continued to evolve through sculpture and installations
  • One of her most notorious works, Narcissus Garden, has been featured worldwide including at Le Consortium, Dijon, 2000; Kunstverein Braunschweig, 2003; as part of the Whitney Biennial in Central Park, New York in 2004; and at the Jardin de Tuileries in Paris, 2010
  • In 2017, a 50-year retrospective of her work opened at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, DC. This is the exhibit that is currently at the AGO, and is scheduled to travel to only five museums in the US and Canada
  • She is recognized as one of the most prolific and significant artists to come out of Japan

Yayoi Kusama
The exhibit consists of 6 interactive Infinity Mirror rooms, galleries displaying some of her print and installation work and a handful of sculptures.  What I found most interesting about the entire exhibit is how it goes completely against the typical museum ‘finger waving’ of taking pictures and selfies with the art.  You are actually encouraged to capture the moment as the artist intended you to do, but looking back, I’d actually love to walk through the rooms again without a phone.

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Each of the rooms represent a specific part of Yayoi’s career.  The rooms are probably only 10’x10’ and be forewarned, you get about 20-30 seconds to take it all in.  With the use of mirrors and lights you really feel like you’ve stepped into an infinite space.  There are dots almost everywhere, a playful pink room, glowing pumpkins, phallic fields and a room full of lanterns that feels like you’ve been transported to a different world.

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Tickets for the show are hard to come by but keep an eye on the AGO’s website as new blocks of tickets are opening up.  I would highly recommend seeing this exhibit, if not for its notoriety and beauty but because Toronto was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the few stops on the tour.

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