The Legendary Yayoi Kusama Will Blow Your Mind “In Infinity”
Artwork: © Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/ Singapore; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; David Zwirner, New York, © Yayoi Kusama
“I, Kusama, am the modern Alice in Wonderland,” Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama declares. At the age of 87, Kusama is one of the most famous living artists on earth, becoming known the world over for her mindblowing installations of the infinite.
With the polka dot as the basis for her work, Kusama has taken the most finite form and rendered it limitless. She explains, “A polka-dot has the form of the sun, which is a symbol of the energy of the whole world and our living life, and also the form of the moon, which is calm. Round, soft, colourful, senseless and unknowing. Polka-dots can’t stay alone; like the communicative life of people, two or three polka-dots become movement… Polka-dots are a way to infinity.”
The concept of infinity is central to Kusama’s work, becoming the basis for which she explores an abstract ideal in material form—and now the theme around which a major retrospective has been organized. Yayoi Kusama: In Infinity, now on view at the HAM Helsinki Art Museum, Finland, through January 22, 2017, presents more than 200 works of painting, drawing, sculpture, video, installation, and performance, while highlighting her relationship with fashion and design.
The exhibition also invites the audience to partake in the interactive The Obliteration Room, an all white space that visitors can leave a brightly colored polka dot sticker as they wish, brilliantly bringing to life Kusama’s words, “My life is a dot lost among thousands of other dots.”
In Infinity takes us inside Kusama’s magnificent mind, into a landscape that is pure energy manifest as art, simultaneously invoking the horror that has plagued her inner world. She explains, “I fight pain, anxiety, and fear every day, and the only method I have found that relieves my illness is to keep creating art. I followed the thread of art and somehow discovered a path that would allow me to live.”
By transforming her private agonies into beauty, she is a magician of sorts, creating peace in place of chaos and reminding us, there can be a better way. “If it were not for art, I would have killed myself a long time ago,” Kusama reveals, reminding us that within each one of us, the path to salvation exists; it simply requires that we give it our all and wholly commit. This is one of the many takeaways from Kusama’s work: the intensity of her convictions are matched by her steadfast and unwavering dedication to her work.
With each work of art, Kusama reveals that commitment to us, drawing us into her web and weaving a magical spell. “More and more I think about the role of the arts, and as an artist, I think that it’s important that I share the love and peace,” she observes, allowing her faith to radiate from the works she has produced for more than fifty years.
Kusama’s art reminds us that though we are all seeming separate entities, we are united by a profound network of energy that we may be able to perceive but not fully articulate. She observes, “With just one polka dot, nothing can be achieved. In the universe, there is the sun, the moon, the earth, and hundreds of millions of stars. All of us live in the unfathomable mystery and infinitude of the universe.”
In Infinity is an invitation down the rabbit hole, into a netherworld where we are free to go beyond the known. No longer must we play by the rules other people impose. Here we are free to discover who we truly are and the deepest desires of our soul. It is in this space that we vanish and are born anew, ready to put aside the petty indignities of life in favor of the spiritual. Kusama reminds us the path to this is within our grasp, should we be willing to let go of all we try to grasp. Her words are as wise as her art, and they speak the same message to our longing hearts: “Forget yourself. Become one with eternity. Become part of your environment.”
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.