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Mirror Rooms Reflect Artist’s Life

Yayoi Kusama has been creating art for six decades and is now once again back at Tate Modern with her Infinity Mirror Rooms, a mesmerising blend between a seaside Hall of Mirrors and a starlit flotation tank, writes Michael Holland…

This exhibition offers the chance for visitors to see two of Kusama’s much-loved installations alongside films and photographs charting her past work from the mid-60s onward, all of which give historical context when we see Kusama revisit earlier motifs.

She was very prolific during the 60s and 70s while in New York where she came to international attention. In that time her work encompassed painting, performance, sculpture, writing, fashion design and installation; footage from this very productive era has been discovered and is shown here. Filmed by British academic John Jones, it shows Kusama in her New York studio and records her early sculptural work.

Walking Piece is a slide show of photographs taken by Eikoh Hosoe of the artist posing around New York’s industrial district wearing a kimono and carrying a parasol in a performance that ‘highlights her outside status and feelings of urban alienation’.

But it is the two Infinity Mirror Rooms that grab the attention. You enter Chandelier of Grief alone and are left to work out where the walls and floor are. Is that a mirror or a space to walk through? Eventually, you end up shuffling slowly along, your hand running along the mirrored wall as a guide, while all the time never knowing when the lights are going to flicker and die to leave you in black solitude and feeling unbalanced.

Filled with the Brilliance of Life, one of the artist’s largest installations, was originally created for her 2012 retrospective. Once again you are left to venture in alone. The mirrored walls endlessly multiply the suspended lights until you believe you are staring out into space.

Both mirror rooms are ultimately meditative and leave you with a feeling of calm. Even now, several hours after leaving Tate Modern, I can take myself back to those rooms and let serenity wash over me.

Born in Japan in 1929, Yayoi Kusama experienced mental health problems in the 70s and admitted herself to hospital. She lives there still today, with her studio close by where she writes novels and poems and continues to paint.

Tate Modern, Bankside, SE1 9TG from June 14th 2021 – June 12th 2022.

Photos: M Holland


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