By Jacqueline Howell

The highly anticipated Yayoi Kusama interactive exhibit has arrived at Toronto’s AGO. And while it is here, it is still highly anticipated by many. Long online ticket release queues mimic the ones we are used to at actual events. Kusama’s expertise at playing with form, image, time, space and inclusion has extended itself, in the Instagram era, both offline and online, to the excitement-level of a concert announcement, and the bodies hoping to get in, in numbers enough to fill a stadium. Stadium love, Toronto has for Kusama.

And just like original, groundbreaking music, great art is worth the wait. Kusama’s work predates rock concerts and music festivals. She was behind the original “happenings” that formed the worlds of both student protest and student art in her first years as an artist.Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (March 3 – May 27, 2018) is the first of its kind, an institutional survey exhibition that lets attendees enter immersive infinity rooms. It marks the most ambitious North American tour of the artist’s work in almost a generation. The AGO in Toronto is the only Canadian stop and one of just six on the tour that runs into early 2019 (Seattle, Los Angeles, Cleveland, Atlanta).

Yayoi Kusama. Interior view of peep in mirror dome from Dots Obsession –Love Transformed into Dots, 2007, at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, 2017. Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York., © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver.

The infinity rooms are surreal and incredibly immersive. They defy the eye (and the camera lens) to place oneself in this landscape, and yet the landscape is “real”, three dimensional and allows us right inside it. It is kaleidoscopic and rich with fantasy inspiration, and marks the debut of a number of new works such as All the Eternal Love I have for Pumpkins (2016), featuring dozens of Kusama’s signature bright yellow, dotted pumpkins, a motif for the artist’s artwork and preoccupations since she was a small child. An artist working out their dreams of childhood and seeing them continually blossom as they enter their senior decades is something striking in itself. The newness and excitement it has created in so many young people and not just the expected numbers of AGO members and long time fans of the artist’s work who might remember the happenings of their youth is something else entirely. It seems that Kusama finds herself right at home and right on time for audiences today just as in prior decades and other eras and places. Perhaps the artist bends time. Defies it. Remakes it. Indeed, the artist does. Even if we can’t linger too long within it.

Yayoi Kusama with recent works in Tokyo, 2016. Courtesy of the artist ©
Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Tomoaki Makino.

Perhaps the fantastical, the introspective, the reflective, the dreamlike, the childhood wishes Kusama articulates in acute, imaginative detail, as surreal or unusual as they are, wildly coloured and lit from unknown sources and free-floating are deeper to our shared dreams than anyone ever anticipated.

The AGO’s presentation of Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors will be complemented by an installation of her 1966 work Narcissus Garden, featuring over 1,300 stainless steel mirror balls placed in the AGO’s Signy Eaton Gallery. Narcissus Garden will be free to view with general admission.

More information and how to get tickets (online only) at AGO.CA