Sunday, December 22, 2013

Exhibitions | Yayoi Kusama at David Zwirner: Art, Marketing and Multiplicationof the "Self"

"Love is Calling," installation  by Yayoi Kusama, David Zwirner Gallery, 2013. Photo by Daniela Bertol.

Yesterday was the last day of  "Who Have Arrived to Heaven" an exhibition of installation and paintings of the eight-four year old Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. The show was hosted by the David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea and received an media and public attention almost unprecedented for an art exhibition. The centerpieces of the show was the installation Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years, which, according to the gallery website, required several hours of waiting in line. The installation is part of the series Infinite Mirrored Room, which has been explored by Kusama for several decades, with kaleidoscopic fabrications of self reflecting mirrors and lights: the mirrored panels line the walls and ceiling of a room  creating infinite reflections of the lights and the viewer, standing on a small, hardly visible platform floating on the water layer covering the floor.
New Yorkers have been exposed to public viewings of Kusama's "Infinity Mirror Rooms" for over a decade. My first recollection is from the 2002 exhibition at the Whitney Museum, where the "infinite mirror room" was titled "Fireflies on the Water" and consisted of mirror, Plexiglas, 150 lights and water in the enclosed space measuring 111" × 144 1/2" × 144 1/2". In 2009 the artist had another of her mirrored "infinity" room, Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, installed at the Gagosian gallery in West 24 Street. Fireflies on the Water was presented again at Whitney Museum in 2012 part of the Kusama's retrospective.

Pumpkins, Installation view from the 2009 Yayoi Kusama exhibition at Gagosian, West 24 Street.

"Love is Calling," installation  by Yayoi Kusama, David Zwirner Gallery, 2013. Photo by Daniela Bertol.

Video installation  by Yayoi Kusama, David Zwirner Gallery, 2013. Photo by Daniela Bertol.

"Residing in a Castle of Shed Tears" poem by Yayoi Kusama,  David Zwirner Gallery, 2013

Kusama blends optical, pop and minimalism in spectacular mixed media work —which include painting, sculpture, video, installation, performance, as well as poetry and fiction writing. Infinity nets and polka dots imagery are another distinctive feature's of the artist's oeuvre. Kusama has a charismatic personality an unusual life: after spending over fifteen years in New York, she returned to Japan in 1973 and has lived in the the Seiwa Hospital for the Mentally Ill since.
The waiting line for  Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years had already been closed for hours when I was able to enter the other installation, Love is Calling within a very short waiting time. Love is Calling is also based on mirrored "infinity" perception and uses lit large inflatable objects as objects of perceptions besides the viewers. But probably the main difference between the popularity (measured in waiting time) is that while in Love is Calling there are at least ten viewers allowed in the installation for about 60 seconds in The Souls of Millions of Light Years allow one viewers at the time is allowed for 45 seconds.
Lines outside the David Zwirner Gallery. Photo by Daniela Bertol
"Gallerini" opening the door to Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years
Although Kusama's work has been acclaimed by the art world for several decades, she has been recently gaining an increasing popularity among not typical art galleries goers. The visitors lining up outside David Zwirner Gallery are typically under thirty-year of age and often even not know who is the artist authoring the installations. The 45 seconds of private viewing is probably what attracts this type of visitors to  The Souls of Millions of Light Years much more thank to Love is Calling. During the 45 seconds inside the mirrored room the viewer is allowed to take photographs and videos. The majority of these audio-visual recordings become instagrams. The "selfies" found in Kusama's installation a very special stage-set: a transcendence to the ordinary places of life, which, in the artificial mirrored fabrication of infinite spaces, allows a kaleidoscopic multiplication of the self. In an era of social networks where virtual presence and remote communication often prevail on face to face physical encounter it is not surprising how this installation has attracted so many crowds finding an instant special gratification of the "self" to share in a surreal fantastic world.

My video memories of Love is Calling andvideo of Kusama reciting the poem/song  "A Manhattan Suicide Addict"

"Who Have Arrived to Heaven" also features paintings by Yayoi Kusama. Photos by Daniela Bertol