Yayoi Kusama: Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity, 2009

I experienced this iteration of Kusama’s Infinity Room at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea in 2009, and it changed my life.

The piece was installed in the very back room. I approached this innocuous white cube, having absolutely no idea what might be revealed inside.

I walked in, and stood motionless on a small platform surrounded by water. It was essentially a small house of mirrors lit only by hanging lanterns. The illumination endlessly proliferated in the walls, ceiling, and watery floor, and I found myself surrounded by the most heavenly glow I’ve ever experienced. The sense of inexhaustible space was not overwhelming, just peaceful.

                                                                                                       (photo by Andrew Russeth)

Kusama’s experience of her own work, however, is quite different. A self-described “obsessive artist”, her artwork has developed from a combination of near-lifelong hallucinations and obsessive compulsive disorder.  She began producing her mirrored Infinity Rooms in 1965, when she explored the concept of infinity as the palpable extension of the visions she was having. She was first committed to a mental hospital in Tokyo in 1975, and has resided there ever since, working in a studio near the hospital.

Yayoi Kusama remains an inspired creator, having shown in many major exhibitions over the last 40 years, including a comprehensive traveling retrospective in 1998. This particular piece took 7 years to make, and was completed in time for her 80th birthday.