Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Expedition Kusama

Yayoi Kusama, Manhattan Suicide Addiction, David Zwirner Gallery, 2013
Kusama (from Manhattan Suicide Addiction)

 Since committing to getting out of the park (Central Park) and into the city (New York City), I seem to be seeing more art.  Last month found me chasing #Bansky all over Manhattan (Expedition Bansky, Goodbye @Banskyny).  Today was all about seeing the Yayoi Kusama exhibit, I Who Have Arrived in Heaven at the David Zwirner gallery.  More specifically, it was about seeing the mirrored Infinity Room.

Infinitely Me, inside the Mirrored Infinity Room, Kusuma, David Zwirner Gallery, 2013
Infinitely Me
Today, the wait was approximately three hours to get into the mirrored Infinity Room.  The urban lore in the line was that on some days that wait could stretch to six hours.  This was my second try at seeing the room.  I had come down on Saturday but decided that the day was too beautiful for standing in line and instead spent a wonderful afternoon exploring the High Line that included 45 minutes of watching the massive construction project that is the Hudson Yards (more on that in another post).  

Infinitely Me in Black & White, Inside the mirrored infinity room by Kusama, 2013
Infinitely Me in Black & White
For the mirrored Infinity Room, you get exactly 45 seconds (no more, no less) which given the space can feel a bit like eternity.  The room is one of those things where you might scratch your head and say, now why didn't I think of this.  It's like magic -- take some water, some mirrors, and some lights and "poof" you have art that wraps around you like a multi-colored cloak.   

45 Seconds in Heaven, Inside the mirrored infinity room by Kusama, 2013
45 Seconds in Heaven
I heard the door close softly behind me and I was alone with the lights.  Did I have time to breathe?  Should I spin?  Should I madly snap photos?  That was the gist of the mild initial panic that knowing I only had 45 seconds evoked.  And then time seemed to stretch out in front of me into an infinite space.  I began to notice that there were doubles and triples of me staring back from the walls and up from the water.  I snapped some photos with my camera and a few more with my iPhone.  I took a breathe and I looked down at the lights reflecting in the water.  And then there was a gentle knock.  My time in heaven was up.  Slowly I walked out.

Always Look Down, Inside the mirrored infinity room by Kusama, 2013
Always Look Down
Someone asked me if it was worth the wait and I responded that it most definitely was.  The best art takes you out of yourself if even only for a second and this piece did that in spades.

Not wanting to let go of the moment I wandered next door to visit the second Infinity Room and had the unexpected pleasure of being first on line (for a moment I thought I might be the only one in line).  I had seen this room on Saturday -- when they were allowing 45 seconds.  Today it was a whole 60!  Unlike the mirrored room, your time here is spent in the company of ten others and so the feeling of infinity is not so strong.  What I love about the room is the multi-colored tentacles that rise up from the floor and descend down from the ceiling.  The art did not so much wrap me in its multi-colored cloak the way the mirrored Infinity Room did.  Rather, it was like being surrounded by a sea of spotted octopodis while floating above a vibrant coral reef.  It was heaven of a different sort.

Floating among a Sea of Tentacles, inside a Kusama infinity room, 2013
Floating among a Sea of Tentacles
I was about to dash out of the gallery to get home for a conference call when I spotted the last major piece in this installation (there are a number of paintings by Kusama as well) -- the video installation of her performing Manhattan Suicide Addiction.  

A snippet of the Kusama Video in Still Photography, Manhattan Suicide Addiction, 2013
Art Goddess
This piece is easily the most powerful of the works on display in this gallery.  Backed by an ever changing montage of patterns and clad in her signature polka dotted robe, Yayoi sings us a song.  Like the Infinity Room, there are mirrors and if you stand in the right spot, her image stretches out into eternity.  She is an expressive performer -- using her hands and her facial expressions -- not to mention the patterns that swirl behind her -- to punctuate her performance.  I lingered here for a very long while.  Eternity if we were measuring the time in seconds. 

Infinite Kusama I, Manhattan Suicide Addiction, 2013
Infinite Kusama I
Infinite Kusama II, Manhattan Suicide Addiction, 2013
Infinite Kusama II
Infinite Kusama III, Manhattan Suicide Addiction, 2013
Infinite Kusama III
Infinite Kusama IV, Manhattan Suicide Addiction, 2013
Infinite Kusama IV
Infinite Kusama V, Manhattan Suicide Addiction, 2013
Infinite Kusama V
Infinite Kusama VI, Manhattan Suicide Addiction, 2013
Infinite Kusama VI
Manhattan Suicide Addiction is the art that knocked my socks off yet it is not the one that I stood on line for three hours to see.  And that's OK.

And now, a final word from the art goddess herself...

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