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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 4, 2017 - Volume 45 Issue 31
'Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors' at SAM is stunning and an exhibit worth seeing
Arts & Entertainment
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'Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors' at SAM is stunning and an exhibit worth seeing

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

'YAYOI KUSAMA:
INFINITY MIRRORS'
SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
Through September 10


I wasn't an art major in college. And I'm certainly not an art expert. But I can tell you what I think is really cool to see, such as the 'Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors' exhibit at SAM (Seattle Art Museum). Almost a month into its run (it opened June 30), the exhibit has drawn crowds by the thousands and will continue to do so through September 10, when it closes, as advance and reserved tickets are completely sold out. Fortunately, the museum has a limited number of tickets available at 10am for walk-up purchase on a first-come, first-serve basis on the days it's open.

Kusama is world renowned for her collection of work, which took flight here in Seattle with her first solo show at the Zoë Dusanne Gallery in 1957. From there, she moved to New York and eventually relocated to her native Japan. And at 88 years old, she's as eclectic as artists come, seen in recent photographs wearing a bright red wig, singing spiritedly in Japanese and talking about her love of pumpkins in a televised interview.

'Infinity Mirrors' is a gathering of Kusama's work, from paintings and large balloons to soft stuffed objects and a staged home interior decorated with dots to closet-sized rooms with mirror-themed installments. The entire exhibit is spread out over six connecting spaces on the museum's fourth level, beginning with a series of new paintings by Kusama titled 'My Eternal Soul' on a wall by the entrance, which supposedly expands as she creates another piece. One of her trademarks is the use of cylindrical-looking stuffed fabrics and phallic-shaped tubes that are placed on objects, such as chairs and a rowing boat, presented at the exhibit entirely coated in silver paint with pineapples and other items resting inside.

Guests can step into tiny rooms for 20 to 30 seconds at a time with illuminated reflective installments that are simultaneously peculiar and astonishing, including the West Coast debut of 'All the Eternal Love I Have for Pumpkins,' an installment dedicated to, well, you guessed it. This is the only Mirror Room, of the five featured at SAM, in which photography is not allowed. Further in the exhibit are giant polka-dotted pink and black balloons with a mounted LED screen that displays Kusama singing in Japanese (the English translation of the song is on the wall below it). You can enter one of these balloons, where similar yet smaller balloons are hanging down.

My favorite portion of 'Infinity Mirrors' was a space with painted white walls and floor completely splattered with colorful dotted stickers. It's a staged home with dining table, couch, book shelves, lamps and even a bicycle covered entirely with circular stickers, and the fun part for guests is that an attendant will hand you a sheet of stickers to add onto the installment. I also adored the 'Love Forever' installment, which invites guests to look into a peephole and observe an assortment of disco-like lights inside a hexagonal-shaped room with mirrors on all sides, as well as the face of another exhibit guest peeking through a second peephole that faces you. For the artist, the concept of 'Love Forever' stood for civil rights, sexual liberation, the anti-war movement and the activist groups of the 1960s.

Organized by the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 'Infinity Mirrors,' which premiered in Washington DC before coming to Seattle, is a spectacular, interactive exhibit that rightfully captures the raw imagination and creative energy of Kusama, an artist unlike any other. She is the first woman to represent Japan at the prestigious Venice Biennale and as an icon of the avant-garde scene in New York during the '60s she became a pop culture symbol and her work would come to influence fellow artists like Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg, to name just two.

The exhibit is scheduled to run through September 10 at SAM and then travels to Los Angeles, Toronto, Cleveland and Atlanta. The museum is open to the public on Wednesdays (10am-5pm), Thursdays (10am-9pm) and Fridays-Sundays (10am-5pm). Admission prices are $34.95 (Adult), $32.95 (Senior, 65+), $29.95 (Military with ID), $24.95 (Student with ID, Teen 13-17) and free for children 12 or under and SAM members.

When tickets for 'Infinity Mirrors' went on sale June 30, all tickets sold out within 24 hours, making it one of the hottest tickets in town. But as mentioned earlier, a limited number of tickets are available at 10am on days the museum is open, and the line at around 9:50am when I visited wrapped around the block, so get there early. It's worth the wait. And don't forget to check out the other exhibits at SAM while you're there, including 'Common Pleasures: Art of Urban Life in Edo Japan,' running through October 22, on the third level.

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