Missing Kusama: Yayoi Kusama at the High Museum in Atlanta, traveling on…

We’re in the Infinity Room at the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the High Museum last December – suspended in the cosmos while the “stars” above and below seem to go on forever. In reality, the little walkway we’re standing on is the center of a tiny room. But like the Tardis, or Snoopy’s doghouse, or Harry Potter’s tent, it seems much bigger inside than outside.

Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room November 2018 - High Museum Atlanta

Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away. Yayoi Kusama – High Museum Atlanta GA

Outside Infinity - Yayoi Kusama Infinity Room at the High Museum Atlanta

What’s outside Infinity? — the gate-keeper.  Only three can go in at one time… and for less than a minute, but we’ve happily stood in a long queue to get this far.

Infinity Room Door - red dots

Another door to infinity, this time with Kusama’s signature soft sculpture forms with obliterating red dots. Peeking in the door at changeover time is almost as interesting as going inside…

That was December. The Kusama show closed February 17, a week ago yesterday. I’d bought tickets early on for November and December dates, not realizing how much I’d want to go again or how soon it would sell out. Then I saw the film Kusama: Infinity, and when the museum did a surprise opening up of ticket sales on the last week, of course I went online to get one. Problem:  I was number 29,593 (-ish) in queue.  I didn’t get a ticket.

So, today I’ll revisit my photos (and wish I’d taken more).

Island in the Sea # 1 - Yayoi Kusama, 1953 - gouache and painted pastel on paper

This small early piece was one of my favorites — Island in the Sea # 1 – Yayoi Kusama, 1953 – gouache and painted pastel on paper. 

Yayoi Kusama 1955 quote - High Museum Atlanta, exhibition 2018-2019

Kusama came to the U.S. and moved to New York. Her soft sewn sculptural work inspired Claes Oldenburg to start his series, her early infinity spaces inspired Lucas Samaras’ successful mirrored rooms, and an exhibition in which she papered the gallery with copies of the same image over and over led Andy Warhol to the idea. But Kusama’s career did not take off like theirs, and she went back to Japan in 1974.

High Museum Exhibition 2018-2019

My Eternal Soul” – recent work – High Museum Exhibition 2018-2019

Yayoi Kusama - as an artist...

Kusama has said the main theme of her art is obsession, that her work is based on “developing her personal psychological problems into art.” When she returned to Japan in the 1970s, she found a mental hospital offering art therapy and checked herself in. She’s almost 90 now, still living in the hospital, going out every day to work in her studio nearby.

One of the many ways Kusama was ahead of her time is how her work expands to encompass us all. It seems made for today’s obsession: social media.  In this show, everyone got into the selfie spirit, even me.

Infinity box at the High Museum exhibition 2018-2019

This was a box to peek into, not to step into.

 

Forget “exit through the gift shop” — viewers got a chance to participate in the theme of obliteration when leaving the exhibition through (of course) the Obliteration Room. Given a set of six multi-colored multi-sized adhesive dots, we each chose where to place our own dot allotment in a room that started out all white.

Kusama Obliteration Room - High Museum Atlanta - November 2018

Kusama Obliteration Room – the first week of the exhibition. High Museum, Atlanta GA

Kusama Obliteration Room - High Museum exhibition 2018-2019, Atlanta GA

Here’s the room a month later…

Kusama Obliteration Room - High Museum exhibition 2018-2019, Atlanta GA

.. by this time it was getting hard to find a place that didn’t already have a dot. 

The exhibition has moved on now. Installation for the next one must have begun – here’s what we saw when walking past the museum a few days ago —

High Museum Atlanta GA - banner for Phillips Collection

Putting up the banner for European Masterworks from the Phillips Collection, opening April 6.

 

Now, late again for Cee’s Foto Challenge – CFFC: Color of Your Choice — what color shall I choose? I’m going with “Dot” – can you blame me?

Film, Kusama Infinity – trailer

High Museum exhibitions:

Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors

Art from the Phillips Collection

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16 thoughts on “Missing Kusama: Yayoi Kusama at the High Museum in Atlanta, traveling on…

  1. Oh, those boring old European masters coming back in …!
    I’m being facetious as I still find wonder in that old group, but these new artists are so much fun. We’ve had some of these immersive, colorful exhibits here at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts in the last few years (not this one specifically), and it’s been interesting to see both the art and the kinds of people attending and appreciating it.

    • When I heard this show was coming, that it was expected to be a blockbuster, and that members would be restricted in the number of tickets we could get — I said something like “Kusama-who?” I thought I’d never heard of her, but when I saw the show I did recognize a few pieces from other museum trips. I’m glad she’s come into her own now, it seems she’s had a hard struggle. As for European and American masters, last year was a big year for me. I got to see the Breughel anniversary show in Vienna and a Thomas Cole exhibit in NYC. (they were mobbed too, but they might not have been so popular in Atlanta) What do you have coming next to Houston?

  2. I saw this exhibition with my then adolescent son a few years ago in Wellington. We both loved it so much we visited several times — no tickets required thankfully, just queuing footprints the infinity room. We saw the movie last year and it has given both of us a whole new appreciation of her genius.

    • How wonderful to get to go back several times. I think she’s getting even more popular as word spreads and people find out about her. (and those 29000+ people on queue trying to get tickets wish the show could have stayed longer) I wish I could have seen the movie at the cinema, but it was only here for a week when I was away, so I got it on netflix.

      • I don’t think we realised at the time how lucky we were to be able to see the exhibition so easily, and so many times. Her work has had a more profound impact on my son than any other artist, which is why we “made a date” to see the film at the Film Festival last year. I must check Netflix to see if it is in the catalogue here. I would happily see it again.

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