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Yayoi Kusama, “Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field” (1965), seen at Castellane Gallery in New York. (Eikoh Hosoe/courtesy of Ota Fine Arts)Yayoi Kusama is bringing her hall of mirrors to D.C. The Japanese artist, who is known for her immersive installations and polka-dotted pumpkins, will be the subject of a splashy retrospective opening in February 2017.
“Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” will focus on her so-called infinity mirror rooms and how they have evolved over five decades. Curated by Mika Yoshitake, the museum’s associate curator, the exhibit will span the entirety of the Japanese artist’s career: from an installation of soft phallic sculptures in a room of mirrors (“Infinity Mirror Room—Phalli’s Field,” 1965) to a participatory piece in which viewers cover an all-white domestic scene with stickers (“The Obliteration Room,” 2002). The survey will include two large-scale installations and six “kaleidoscopic environments,” according to the museum, along with more than 60 sculptures, paintings, and works on paper.
Long lines of frenzied fans follow Kusama’s mirror rooms, which have enjoyed steady popularity throughout her career but have gained special prominence in an era of spectacle shows and museum selfies. Projects like “Repetitive Vision” (1996) at the Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh and now “Infinity Mirrored Room—The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” (2013) at The Broad in Los Angeles are some of the most popular contemporary-art destinations in the country. With its emphasis on these environments, “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” is bound to be one of the best-attended and most-‘grammed shows that the Hirshhorn has ever assembled.
Kusama came to prominence in the 1960s as an artist working in New York, where she embraced boho anti-war activism through nude performances and psychedelic imagery. She returned to her native Japan in 1973, and in 1977, committed herself voluntarily to a sanitarium in Tokyo to deal with ongoing mental health struggles, including hallucinations. She continues to make work from a studio near the psychiatric ward today.
This is the most significant retrospective on a single artist mounted by the Hirshhorn since 2008, when the museum organized a survey on Louise Bourgeois with the Tate Modern in London and Centre Pompidou in Paris. The Hirshhorn expects the Kusama show to tour across North America. Recent surveys of Kusama’s work have traveled South and Central America as well as South Asia.
Yayoi Kusama, “The Obliteration Room” (2002 to present) (QAGOMA Photography)