If you gave me a bunch of dots to play with I’d probably line them all up, maybe even extending to symmetrical patterns. That’s the kind of person I am.
Fortunately Yayoi Kusama is not, as we discovered when we visited her Mirrored Years exhibition:
Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years presents seminal works from the 1960s and 1970s alongside more recent work. Kusama is renowned for her lifelong interest in visual perception and sensory experiences, her fixation with repetitive patterns and forms, her iconic use of dots and her dizzying installations. Mixing Op Art, Pop Art and sculptural practice, her all-enveloping room-installations, mirrored to infinity, are hallucinatory, surrealistic, and utterly unlike anything else you will experience in the world of art.
Don’t you just hate all that pompous art writing’?
The exhibition though was astonishing. Kusama took dots, millions of dots, and did the most fascinating things with them. The first work I saw was called something like Autumn Days.
On the wall was a dark wooden grid forming cubes, each about a couple of feet across. Inside each cube was a surface that wasn’t flat, but ‘sculpted’. Every surface was covered with black circles of varying sizes on a background of warm ‘Autumn’ orange.
The combination of circles and shapes juxtaposed with squares meant that your eye just slid right off any individual point. The whole thing moved, shimmered and shifted as you looked.
The whole exhibition was like that, from the room with endless mirrors and suspended lights so you were floating in an infinite space, to the beautiful ‘clouds’ — giant fluffy beanbags you just wanted to throw yourself on to. Every work created an optical illusion on a grand scale.
The Invisible Room
One room, lit with ultraviolet light, contained ordinary dark-coloured living room objects — a dining table with plates and glasses, a couch, a coffee table and the like. Each object was decorated with a few small polka dots that shone in the light, while the dark objects just disappeared and became invisible.
Everything marked with dots seemed to hang in the air. A couple of white roses in a vase on the table glowed fiercely in the dark room.
Night and Day
The YouTube video below shows two rooms from an exhibition in Japan (the first minute is all titles, so hang in there). Those 2 rooms were also in this exhibition.
The rooms were identical, except one was yellow with black dots, and the other black with yellow dots. Both rooms contained identical large ‘shapes’. The rooms were called ‘Dots Obsession Night’ and ‘Dots Obsession Day’.
It was fascinating how switching the colours around altered our perception of each room. For me, the ‘Night’ room was calming, while the ‘Day’ room was intolerable after a short while — it was just too bright.
This exhibition was quite something. It was challenging and thought provoking. It had magic and fun. I’m very glad I visited.