525 West 19th St. between Tenth & Eleventh Aves.
Tuesday - Saturday through December 21, free, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm (line stops around 4:00)
infinity room slideshows
No one knows lines like we New Yorkers do. We line up for burgers, advance movie screenings, new sneaker releases, free Shakespeare in the park. When we see a line, our first thought is to find out what it’s for because it might be something really cool. We particularly pride ourselves on getting on lines to see such lofty, high-culture things as art, and the biggest such line these days is for “I Who Have Arrived in Heaven,” Yayoi Kusama’s dazzling exhibition at David Zwirner in Chelsea. (See below to find out how one lucky twi-ny reader and a guest can get a chance to skip the line to see two of Kusama’s spectacular infinity rooms without having to wait.) Kusama’s first show at Zwirner occupies all three spaces of the Nineteenth St. location, consisting of twenty-seven new paintings, two immersive installations, and a video projection. The canvases, all nearly six feet by six feet square, feature a bright, bold color palette laid out in playful, childlike geometric shapes and patterns, with smiling faces and floating eyes, profiles, green landscapes, blue rivers, and obsessive accumulations of small dots, all coming together in ritualistic compositions that are instantly happy-making, which is Kusama’s intent. “As I’m getting closer to death, I’m still full of big hope that we all have the power to spread the love and peace, and I can do so with my work,” the wheelchair-bound Kusama said through a translator at a press conference held at the gallery the day before the opening. “If you can be happy through my artwork, there’s nothing more joyous than that.” Many of the paintings’ titles have that same positive energy, from “Everything About My Love” and “Praying for Peace in the World” to “Brilliance of Life” and “All the Love Overflowing,” bringing much happiness to the viewer.
Now eighty-four, Kusama lives by choice in a psychiatric facility in Japan, and as she makes clear in the title of the exhibit as well as in some of the names of some of the new works, her ultimate fate awaits. While walking around her tantalizingly gorgeous “Love Is Calling” Mirrored Infinity Room, a wondrous forest of light-up spotted leglike rubber and acrylic objects that change colors, she can be heard reciting, in Japanese, the love poem “Residing in a Castle of Shed Tears,” which begins, “When the time comes around for people to encounter the end of their life / having put on years, death seems to be quietly approaching / It was not supposed to be my style to be frightened, but I am / In the shadows of my loved one’s footprints, distress revisits me at the dead of the night refreshing my memories / Being in love with and longing for you, I have locked myself up in this ‘castle of shed tears.’” The serious words play off the scintillating delight of wandering through the room, which extends ad infinitum in all directions. The exhibit is highlighted by her latest Infinity Room: “The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away,” which, like “Fireflies on the Water” in her otherwise underwhelming 2012 Whitney retrospective, puts visitors at the center of a vast, unending universe filled with LED lights sparkling on the water and across the galaxies, playing with the mind as it lifts the spirits, evoking life, death, and the afterlife on three physical planes.
After waiting as much as three hours or more, visitors are allowed forty-five seconds in “Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” and approximately twice that in “Love Is Calling,” which can fit about eight to ten people at a time. There is no wait to see the paintings or the short music video Manhattan Suicide Addict, in which Kusama sings such lines as “Swallow antidepressants and it will be gone” and “Amidst the agony of flowers, the present never ends,” the single projection being reflected off to the right and the left in an endless succession of Kusamas singing in front of her art. But despite all the mentions of death, “I Who Have Arrived in Heaven” is primarily about life and love, peace and hope, and it is certainly the most happy-making art exhibit in town right now.
SKIP THE LINE! The wait to see “Infinity Mirrored Room — The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away” and “Love Is Calling” is currently estimated to be between one and three hours, and it is likely to only grow longer as the exhibition reaches its closing date of December 21. But twi-ny can offer one lucky couple special access to the two remarkable rooms without having to wait on line. Just send your name, daytime phone number, and all-time-favorite Yayoi Kusama work of art to firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday, December 10, at 5:00 to be eligible. All entrants must be twenty-one years of age or older; one winner will be selected at random.
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