A mirrored ‘infinity room’ anchors Yayoi Kusama’s inaugural exhibition at David Zwirner Gallery, and the cohesion between Kusama’s work and the space it exists in validates the importance of concrete spatiality in installations working to transcend or obfuscate that very sense of rootedness. Kusama’s site-specific “Infinity Mirrored Room- the Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” is an enclosed, mirror-paneled room whose fit at David Zwirner is what allows for the experience of spacelessness once inside. Hundreds of LED lights hang from the ceiling and flicker on and off while a small pool of stagnant water surrounds the one to three people standing in the room’s center. Space expands as the lights turn on and the viewer can see the infinite regression of the body, away from the center and into the colorful, seemingly endless realms of projection created from the effects of the mirrors. The infinite regress is followed immediately by a constricting darkness; as the lights flicker off and the reflections disappear, one again becomes conscious of the pool of water to be avoided and the complete stillness of the body necessary in order to avoid stepping into it.
The exhibition takes up David Zwirner’s three consecutive gallery spaces on 19th street, but the immense line that forms outside of the main entrance to the “Infinity Mirrored Room” at all times is a permanent feature. There’s an active push-and-pull between the curious patrons and the secret rooms; gallery employees double as guards who guide the one minute that each viewer is allowed to be in the enclosure of “Infinity Mirrored Room” from start to finish. While the rules of the experience might at first seem off-putting to a viewer accustomed to walking freely among Chelsea’s galleries for however little or long one chooses to engage, the rigidity and regulations of Kusama’s two installation rooms invigorate a sense of art as ritual. Reacting against the stipulations called for to experience the installations as the artist intended (no drinks, no large bags, no moving from the center of the platform) would be like protesting being silent in a cathedral. At the same time, the sixty second experience means compromise, and the patrons who choose to snap photos instead of leaving devices outside risk, if not guarantee for themselves, missing a certain experience of the room altogether.
“Infinity Mirrored Room” permits only a few people in at a time, while “Love is Calling” permits eight to nine at once. “Love is Calling” is another enclosed installation room, boasting constant illumination opposed to the contrast between light and dark of “Infinity Mirrored Room.” Inflatable forms covered in quintessentially Kusama polka dots subtly change colors. Mirrored walls create a world that extends beyond them into a surreal forest. Kusama’s work emerges from a blending of pop art and minimalism, a quick recipe for aesthetic palatability. Pop art’s history of making art out of everyday objects both prompts and encourages interaction between viewer and piece by creating an implicit bridge between person and art, previously highbrow and inaccessible. Kusama has worked through this historical tradition and continues to imbue her work with certain accessibility. The mirrored walls of the installation room reflect the viewer back into the work itself, and it becomes impossible to see the work without seeing one’s self reflected back into it.
Yayoi Kusama’s “I Who Have Arrived in Heaven” is on view at David Zwirner Gallery through December 21st at 525 West 19th Street. Multiple paintings by Yayoi Kusama and a new video projection (“Manhattan Suicide Addict”) are also on view.
– Amie Zimmer
*Due to the high foot traffic, David Zwirner Gallery cannot guarantee entrance into the installation rooms after 4:00 pm. Plan accordingly. All photos courtesy of David Zwirner Gallery.