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TO MARCH 21, 2004
Niele Toroni has brushstrokes, Daniel Buren has stripes, and Yayoi Kusama has polka dots. All three have been applying their conceptual wallpaper to a variety of surfaces since the ’60s, but Kusama may have the best rationale for not letting go of a beloved motif. It’s a matter of autobiography: Once, as a child, when she was studying the floral pattern of a tablecloth, she shifted her gaze and started hallucinating (or vividly daydreaming, it’s sometimes reported) that red flowers were overtaking every surface in the room, even encroaching on her body. This self-annihilating vision, which she seems to have found terrifying and comforting in equal measure, was to become her origin story, to be retold, amplified, and drawn upon at every opportunity. When, in the ’70s, she began to receive inpatient treatment for hallucinations and a severe case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, it only fed her myth. Now in her 70s, Kusama has been increasingly active since a Los Angeles County Museum of Art/Museum of Modern Art retrospective revived her career five years ago. Age can make old manias tough to maintain, though, and with 2002’s Dots Obsession, in which indifferently installed red polka dots peel from the stone walls of the Sackler’s entry pavilion and wrinkle on the slightly underinflated surfaces of Shmoo-shaped balloons that dangle from the ceiling, Kusama seems finally to have run out of gas. More effective, if not at all unexpected at this point, is 1996’s Infinity Mirrored Room Love Forever (pictured, with the artist), a hexagonal mirror chamber that reflects a radiating pattern of incandescent bulbs into the bottle-green forever. “Perspectives” is on view daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. to Sunday, March 21, 2004, at the Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW. Free. (202) 357-4880. (Glenn Dixon)