The first thing I learned of Yayoi Kusama were her dots; specifically, “The Obliteration Room,” an exhibit at the High Art Museum where visitors are invited to cover a completely blank white room with colorful polka dot stickers. From there, my curiosity about this artist bloomed. I wanted to learn more about Yayoi Kusama’s artworks, from colorful pumpkins filled with precise dots to the “Narcissus Garden” installation. I then began to ask myself, why dots?
“Polka dots are a way to infinity,” Kusama said in an interview with Unit London. “When we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment.” From a young age, Kusama had hallucinations: She described them to Unit London as “flashes of light, auras, or dense fields of dots.” These hallucinations “would come to life, multiply and engulf herself and her surroundings in a process she called ‘self-obliteration.”
Kusama has candidly shared her battles with mental health and how her struggles have contributed to her work to various arts publications, and her art has been a part of the pop culture zeitgeist for many years. This popularity is reflected in her salary— she is one of the highest-paid living female artists of today, according to Tate Museum.
Notably, Kusama’s “infinity series,” has been a popular backdrop of Instagram photography. Although the “Infinity Mirror Room” only allows people to stay for one to one-and-a-half minutes, it feels like one is completely alone in the oblivion of oneself (unless you go with friends). Yayoi Kusama’s unique style has an amazing ability to influence how patrons see her artworks, especially her big installations.
The “Infinity Mirror Room” installation in particular has been perfectly controlled on every wall, ceiling, and floor to allow patrons to see only what the artist allows, encouraging people to truly immerse themselves in the artwork. The spherical mirror hanging from the ceiling and placed on the floor give a viewer additional mirror angles to explores and thus more ways to ‘self obliterate’ oneself in the immensity of their own singular reflection.
An interesting addition to the “Infinity Mirror Room” exhibit is the large mirrored pillar in the middle of the room. Circular holes sealed off with glass allow one to peer inside it to see a mesmerizing display of spheres and mirrors reflecting themselves and the tiniest image of themselves seen through the circular window — which was a cool bonus that wouldn’t have been clear from the get-go.
I would definitely recommend visiting — regardless if it’s for the experience or a cool photo — since it is a unique and rather cheerful experience, unless you are claustrophobic (as one of the walls is a door that closes for the viewing time).
The exhibit on loan from the Art Gallery of Ontario will be at the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester from Sept. 14 to May 5, 2024. One needs to sign up for a certain day via this link then at the entrance the exhibit will cost 5 dollars. Furthermore, to visit the rest of the Memorial Art Gallery one will need to show their UR ID at the entrance for free admission.