Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Yayoi Kusama Exhibition

I was first introduced to the works of Kusama through her Obliteration Room via TateShots and felt so excited to see that she was once again exhibiting in London and made sure I was able to attend. Reminded by friend's instagram shots and a segment in Time Out magazine we scheduled it into my birthday celebrations, initially planning to arrive at 10am we didn't make it until 2pm and ended up queuing for two hours! At least it was a beautifully sunny day and there were a few places nearby to buy drinks. 

Surprisingly one man left the exhibition intentionally shouting about pumpkins and how unimpressed he was. Clearly a disgruntled friend or partner taken along with no idea what the show was. I expected pumpkins and I loved it!!  

Pumpkin, 2016 
Mirror polished bronze

Hosted by the Victoria Micro Galleries it was spilt across two venues, one in Mayfair and one at Old Street. Only able to visit one we chose Old Street as it showcased the infinity rooms. From the images I had seen I expected huge rooms filled with glowing pumpkins and millions of people, however it was such an intimate experience. The rooms were much smaller than anticipated but completely mesmerising. Once inside the gallery we queued for each room as monitored by staff with stopwatches allowing two people in at a time and around two minutes inside. I just wish we had longer! It was incredible. Even my husband who didn't know much of her work loved the experience. It's hard to convey in images how it felt.   

All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016 
Wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED

Each room used mirrors to create a sense of openness and eternity. It felt like a much larger almost spiritual space to be in. I am completely drawn to work that evokes this hold on people's emotions. So many of us lack the attention span and take in information so quickly and passively due to technology that art has evolved to grab us by the shoulders. We need these immersive experiences that take over all our senses and hold us still if only for two minutes. I truly believe that work like this is the future of contemporary art. 

Chandelier of Grief, 2016
Steel, aluminium, one-way mirror, acrylic, chandelier motor, plastic, LED

I didn't feel that this room was quite as engaging as All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. The room was larger, less full of art and four people viewed the space at a time. It simply did not captivate me in the same way and I found the mirrors less effective (too much of me instead of the artwork). My husband however got an incredible shot of the piece taken by looking directly down into the mirror below the chandelier. I probably should have tried that! 

When we first entered the gallery we were given a guide noting each piece and it's location however the image for Where the Lights in My Heart Go was unclear. As we stepped out into the garden we saw people queueing for a mirrored box, assuming this was it we joined and waited to see. Pretty hot and tired by this point many people had taken to sitting down as they queued. Our turn came and the door for this room was tiny and added to the joy of the experience. We stepped inside with two other viewers and saw loads of tiny holes in the walls. Confused we looked through them to the outside, then as the door shut we understood. We had entered space. 

Where the Lights in My Heart Go, 2016
Stainless steel, aluminium 

The holes transformed into hundreds of tiny stars reflected for an eternity in the mirrored walls. It was breathtaking. It was instantly my favourite part of the exhibit. Kusama captured heaven and put it in a box. All these rooms evoked such intricate and emotive experiences, the whole thing was utterly ethereal.  

Narcissus Garden, 1966
873 stainless steel spheres

The exhibition ended with Narcissus Garden steeped in sunshine. A relaxing pieces featuring Kusama's iconic spots. The piece was first created in 1966 for the 33rd Venice Biennale, captivating our vanity and egotistical nature. If you look into one of the steel balls you will find only yourself reflected back and not much of the world around you. With each ball a similar size to a fortune tellers crystal ball she originally produced 1,500 and sold them to viewers for two dollars. Literally selling vanity back to the eye of the beholder.  

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