SEATTLE — Advance tickets are sold out, but don’t despair.
The Seattle Art Museum’s current blockbuster exhibition — Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors — will be available for viewing by lucky folks willing to line up each morning to buy timed, same-day tickets.
“We are doing all we can to get people in,” said SAM director Kimerly Rorschach. “There is a good chance that you will see the exhibit before it closes in September.”
One of Japan’s most beloved contemporary artists, Kusama, 88, made a career of installations and performance art. Along the way, she created these mind-blowing mirrored rooms in which one can seemingly visualize infinity. Yes, they are that cool.
As instructed by the artist, SAM staff will allow just two or three people at a time into each mirrored room for about 30 seconds to experience the sensation.
Kusama’s Infinity Mirrors opened in February to record-breaking crowds at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., and is now on a tour that also includes stops in Los Angeles, Toronto and Cleveland.
Perhaps one of the reasons the show is in Seattle is because it was here that Kusama began her first North American solo tour of abstract paintings in 1957.
Be sure to find the photo of a young Kusama dressed in a kimono and posing with the late Seattle gallery owner Zoe Dusanne. Kusama had been encouraged by the legendary Northwest artist Kenneth Callahan to get in touch with Dusanne.
In 1958, Kusama moved to New York City. There, she painted large monochromatic net-motif canvases, and eventually landed on her signature polka-dot motif. She also became involved in the anti-war movement, staging around the city various “happenings” that asked viewers to question the war in Vietnam. Growing up in Japan during World War II had profoundly affected the artist.
The mirrored rooms at SAM include the black-glassed “Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity,” a reflection of death and the afterlife. It seemed reminiscent of the Japanese lanterns that honor the victims of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The lights go out in this one.
“Phalli’s Field,” which consists of stuffed red polka-dotted fabric tubers, is one of her first mirrored installations. In the past, Kusama has posed inside the room in a full red leotard. Yes, some of the tubers in the broader “Accumulation” gallery, of which this room is a part, look like penises.
“All the Eternal Love for the Pumpkins” consists of less than 50 polka-dotted fabric squashes, but the mirrors make them into acres and acres of pumpkins. As a child, Kusama enjoyed visiting farms that grew pumpkins.
Kusama returned to Japan in the 1970s, and she continues to work in her studio in Tokyo.
“Love Transformed into Dots” is a room of big pink balloonlike spheres decorated with black polka dots. This installation is one of Kusama’s most recent infinity rooms.
The viewer does not enter the “Love Forever” infinity mirrored room, but rather looks through one of two peepholes to see a flickering, kaleidoscopic light display.
The finale is “The Obliteration Room,” in which visitors are provided with green, blue, yellow, red, orange and pink dot stickers to eliminate all traces of the white on the walls and furniture in the room.
The exhibition also marks the West Coast premiere of Kusmama’s most recent colorful paintings, a group titled “My Eternal Soul.”
The museum provides plenty of literature to give a background on Kusama and her art. In addition, the exhibit catalog is offered for sale.
If you go
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will be exhibited through Sept. 10 at the Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave. Expect a visit to take an hour or two. Closed on Tuesdays, SAM’s hours during the exhibit are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Daily prices for Kusama (which include the rest of the museum) are $34.95 for adults, with discounts offered for seniors and military; $24.95 for students and teens; children get in free, but still need a ticket.
A limited number of timed tickets will be available for same-day entry on a first-come, first-served basis. Once inside, be prepared for lines. It’s OK, people move fairly quickly through the queue in front of each mirrored room.
You are allowed to have things in your pockets, but people with purses will be asked to put their bags in a small cubby on the floor during their moments in the mirrored rooms. Photography is allowed in all but the “Pumpkins” room.