Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama has a thing for polka dots: She’s painted them on naked bodies, decorated trees with them and affixed them to household objects.
Yet it’s the many dots that compose her “infinity nets” for which she is most famous, seas of dots that provide the viewer with a sense of limitless expanse. Inside one of her Infinity Mirror Rooms, the viewer enters a portal to an immersive, experiential encounter with art.
“Dots are symbols of the world, the cosmos,” Kusama has said, words included on the wall of her new solo exhibition.
Bay Area spectators now have their first opportunity to gaze upon Kusama’s celebrated Infinity Mirror Rooms with the West Coast premiere of the artist’s immersive artwork at SFMOMA. Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love contains two mirrored rooms the artist created a decade apart: "Dreaming of Earth’s Specificity, I Offer My Love" and "LOVE IS CALLING."
The 94-year-old artist has struggled with mental health challenges throughout her life. She uses these struggles as inspiration for her artwork—she has described the hallucinations she's experienced since childhood as “fields of dots.” Her long career has had many eras, with Kusama going from an avant-garde leader living in near bankruptcy in New York City to being considered one of the world’s most famous artists, whose art sales have smashed records.
The rooms are irresistible—and highly Instagrammable. One of her Infinity Mirror Rooms on display at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., received such a crush of visitors it was damaged and had to be temporarily closed. Timed tickets for viewing Kusama’s Infinity Mirror Rooms at SFMOMA are already sold out through October (the next batch of tickets, for November, will open on Oct. 5).
While viewing one of Kusama’s coveted rooms requires a timed ticket—groups of six will be let in one at a time, with two minutes to enjoy each room—access to Kusama’s sculpture "Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart" on the fifth floor at SFMOMA is available anytime, and the giant, glossy gourd is its own type of immersive experience.
Like polka dots, pumpkins play a formative role in Kusama’s trajectory as an artist. She first began to paint the gourds as a young girl in elementary school in Japan as a way to depict the hallucinations she often saw.
“I adore pumpkins,” Kusama said, “as my spiritual home since childhood and with their infinite spirituality.” Kusama’s sculpture on display at SFMOMA, therefore, combines her two great sources of inspiration: pumpkins and dots.
In a world often dominated by emergency and extraction, an opposite feeling emerges upon viewing Kusama’s famed Infinity Mirror Rooms: that of abundance.
In rooms that stretch forever, you lose your sense of self, the sense of division between you and others. Maybe that’s why love—the ultimate union—is in the title of both her Infinity Mirror Rooms and the exhibition itself, love that abolishes boundaries and dissolves any sense of separateness.
Julie Zigoris can be reached at email@example.com