I’m a member of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. As a member, I had the chance to see a preview of the Yayoi Kusama exhibit on Thursday. Getting a ticket for the show was a very long process. I was in a virtual line for 7 hours and could only do that because I was working at home all day with no outside appointments to interfere. After a while, I viewed the process with some hilarity and didn’t know if I was a sheep being lured by all the hype, but I decided to see for myself.
I’m very glad I went to the show. I enjoyed it greatly–not only the infinity rooms that you step inside for 20 seconds and see a variety of lights, shapes and yourself and others mirrored many times over, but also her paintings, collages and sculptures. And I found her meditations on life and death very meaningful since I’m old and have always, at any rate, had an awareness of death close by my side.
Here’s some of the photos I took. The first two are of some of the infinity rooms. I am not into selfies in general, but I took photos of the rooms. Even doing that, I felt I was giving in to the obsessive nature of snapping cell phone pics and not experiencing the present. But because the crowds were not extreme on Thursday morning, I doubled back later and stood in the rooms without taking photos.
The first infinity photo is of The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.
This next Infinity Room is called Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity.
This is a giant globe you peer into in a room filled with giant pink and polka dotted spheres.
Though the Infinity Rooms were very beautiful and thought provoking, her paintings and sculptures were my favourite part of the show. Here, though I took some photos to remember the pieces, I was able to take time to contemplate the works for as long as I wanted. I loved the wild shapes of the sculptures and the colours and shapes of the paintings.
I believe this large sculpture is called Surrounded by Heartbeats. It had particular meaning for me because of the series of work I’m about to start on the theme of the heart.
This next painting, one of my favourites, (although all were powerful) is called My Heart’s Abode.
And this next is Story After Death. The titles of all the paintings were listed on diagrams at each end of the displays. When I saw this title, I figured I better pay close attention to whichever painting it was. Being an elder, I figured I could learn something about what may await me. Earlier in the exhibit, with her collages, I saw a quote from her friend, Joseph Cornell that I loved. He said “I never forget about death, it’s like going from this room into the next.”
I haven’t spoken about Kusama’s political activism or her openly confronting her fears about sex. There are many layers to think about in seeing her work. But I’ll end with a quote that made me laugh though it’s extremely serious. It’s from the 1960’s, when she became part of the Vietnam War protests. As part of that, she staged one-off guerrilla style performance art pieces that involved nude gatherings. She called these Anatomic Explosions. I loved part of the open letter that she sent to U.S. president Richard Nixon that, alas, remains so relevant today.
In it, she wrote, “You can’t eradicate violence by using more violence…Lose yourself in the timeless stream of eternity…Anatomic explosions are better than atomic explosions.”