ICA Miami presents bewitching Infinity Mirror Room
Entering one at a time, each visitor has just one minute to gaze into Yayoi Kusama’s mirrored “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.”
The installation – presented by the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami in an off-site exhibition space at 112 NE 41st St., Suite 106 – is meant to be a full-body experience.
Bathed in a warm buttery yellow, the room has what appears to be millions upon millions of pumpkins, those familiar harbingers of fall, now headily and magically transformed with black polka dots spangling their voluptuous curves.
This presentation marks the first time one of Kusama’s enormously popular Infinity Mirror Rooms has been shown in Miami, according to the museum.
Kusama is a 90-year-old artist living in Japan who has received years of international attention and acclaim. Pumpkins and polka dots have appeared throughout her storied artistic career, which has included painting, performance, room-sized installations, sculpture, fashion, and film.
Polka dots in Kusama’s art are both childishly playful and obsessively, even ominously, repetitive. A grotesque undercurrent lingers in this pumpkin love-fest. Could these rows of black dots be metaphors for the apocalyptic progress of a rogue strain of black mold in a time when the environment is constantly threatened?
In her hands, polka dots transcend easy cliches. Formally, these black dots ingeniously blend a cheery aura with the severe minimalist geometry conveyed by her signature motif of repeating strands of circles in carefully graduated sizes.
Pumpkins have been a creative presence in her mind since childhood. They evoke memories of her family’s seed nursery in Japan during the years before World War II, according to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C., where Kusama’s six Infinity Mirror Rooms drew record-setting crowds in 2017. The exhibit later traveled to five major museums in the United States and Canada.
Kusama’s capacity for making news and memories in our selfie-soaked era continues unabated.
The mirrored room exhibited by ICA Miami is among the art cited in a $14 million lawsuit filed Oct. 4 in Miami by German company Fine Art Partners against Miami- and London-based art dealer Inigo Philbrick and his gallery.
Tommy Ralph Pace, ICA Miami’s deputy director, said Kusama’s art is “on loan to the museum from a private collection. We understand it is not for sale.
“This dispute appears to involve the previous owners of the work. Philbrick is acknowledged as a supporter of the exhibition because he donated use of a vacant space for us to present the work and helped connect us with the lender,” he wrote in an email.
In Miami, gazing into Kusama’s mirrored fantasy world of countless pumpkins can at first be disorienting and claustrophobic, but then finally soothing. Even meditative.
Visitors might be momentarily seduced into embarking on the fool’s errand of counting Kusama’s meticulously sculpted and painted pumpkins placed within the relatively small gallery, about the size of a child’s bedroom. By trying to count pumpkins, one would miss recognizing that this room is a unique zone where reality becomes fabulously fractured and, well, an infinite fantasy world. It allows the imagination free rein.
Don’t bother fighting the endless repetition within the mirrors. You might miss the startling and unsettling sight of your own body replicated forever on the ceiling, four walls and floor. In this place, spatial dimensions resist all rational limits.
The visit becomes an ephemeral performance, a fleeting return to the 1960s avant-garde spirit of happenings, when Kusama first made her mark as an artist, transplanted from her native Japan to New York.
Still, although space has no limit here, time does – and time in this zone lasts only 60 seconds.
“Because Kusama’s rooms have proven so popular around the world, each visit to the exhibition is brief, enabling as many people as possible to enter,” says ICA Miami’s artistic director, Alex Gartenfeld, via email.
One way to prolong the experience: Seize this moment for taking a selfie.
“We recommend that visitors bring a phone to take photos while in the room, creating a lasting memory,” Gartenfeld says.
What: “All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins,” an Infinity Mirror Room by Yayoi Kusama
When: On view through Jan. 31, 2020
Where: Presented by ICA Miami at an off-site exhibition space at 112 NE 41st St., Suite 106, Miami
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays
Cost: Free on Thursdays on a first-come, first-served basis; $15 Fridays through Sundays; tickets must be purchased online
More information: 305-901-5272; icamiami.org