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“Yayoi Kusama: EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE”

Art, Contemporary art David Zwirner , Chelsea Until Saturday December 14 2019
4 out of 5 stars
“Yayoi Kusama: EVERY DAY I PRAY FOR LOVE”
Photograph: Ali Garber

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Yayoi Kusama is back with another of her signature Infinity Rooms, and tens of thousands of the faithful are lining up for hours to see it as if they were camped outside an Apple store. This is only appropriate, given that Kusama’s work and, indeed, the 90-year-old artist herself have become the art world’s equivalent of the iPhone: a product and an experience rolled into one. The wait has become an essential part of the proceedings, culminating in each visitor spending exactly one minute inside the installation—just enough time to snap some selfies, which winds up being the whole point of the exercise.

The funny thing is, there are plenty of other Kusama pieces in the show that you can view right away: colorfully patterned paintings, a white pumpkin (another trademark) trimmed in black, the nifty neon ladder and a roomful of silvery blobs, pooled on the floor like giant droplets of liquid mercury. In these and other works, Kusama continues to indulge in her long-standing preoccupations with the healing power of art as well as her fear of men, stemming from a difficult relationship with her distant father, an inveterate womanizer. But never mind: Kusama fans know what they’re here to see, and it ain’t that stuff.

Kusama’s elevation to meme status represents the climax of an extraordinary career, rooted in the ongoing hallucinations that Kusama first suffered as a child in Japan. Flashes of light, auras and dense, endless patterns of dots would swarm her field of vision, blotting out her perception of reality and, with it, her sense of her own being. Ever since, two intertwined concepts have been key to her Infinity Rooms: the titular immensity, which is to say a psychic space without limit, and obliteration, the transformative process in which the self vanishes into the void. In this respect, her mirror-lined chambers, boundlessly reflecting and refracting light and objects, are concrete expressions of Kusama’s lifelong visions, effectively inviting us to immerse ourselves in her mental illness. There have been many artists whose efforts were directly or indirectly driven by psychological afflictions (e.g., Van Gogh’s portraits of himself, bandaged in the aftermath of a psychotic break that led him to mutilate his own ear), but none that have encouraged viewers to relive them in the way Kusama has done.

Still, since her work is usually encountered via social media—where the camera phone reduces infinitude, as Kusama construes it—the idea is turned on its head, making it a transient, entertaining distraction. Although her artistic practice stretches back for more than a half century, the Kusama we know today—a brand that we consume—wouldn’t have been possible without Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

In the end, though, it scarcely matters: The way that these platforms destabilize the boundaries between reality and illusion echoes the visual effect of Kusama’s Infinity Rooms. Is it worth the test of one’s endurance required to visit one? That question is irrelevant. It’s already Kusama’s world; we’re just waiting to see it.

Details

Venue name: David Zwirner
Address: 537 W 20th St
New York City
10011
Cross street: between Tenth and Eleventh Aves
Transport: Subway: C, E to 23rd St

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