Critics’ Picks

Yayoi Kusama, The Obliteration Room, 2012, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.


Yayoi Kusama

Daegu Art Museum
40 Misulgwan-ro Suseong-gu
July 16 - November 3

The retrospective “A Dream I Dreamed” presents 118 of Yayoi Kusama’s installations, sculptures, and paintings, including thirty new works. Filling the immense space of both floors of this museum, the exhibition features seven large installations, including Infinity Mirrored Room, Gleaming Lights of the Souls, 2008, a space where viewers may feel as though they were floating into the center of a celestial galaxy. Opening the door to this small dark room, visitors are dazzled by an array of colorful lights that endlessly reflect off mirrored walls and the water on the floor. Indeed, throughout the show, one is constantly overwhelmed by the sheer spectacle of kaleidoscopic patterns of light and the bright, vibrant colors.

As has been well documented, Kusama’s engagement with dots and nets derived from childhood trauma. In the video Manhattan Suicide Addict, 2010, Kusama, wearing her signature red wig and red polka dot dress, softly sings and talks about her frustrations and fantasies of death, while colorful dots and organic patterns are sprawled on the screen behind her. Again, the video is flanked by mirrored walls, so that this psychedelic monologue is laterally multiplied until it vanishes into infinity.

In The Obliteration Room, 2012, Kusama has installed a room full of furniture and household objects, all of which are painted white. Visitors are invited to apply candy-colored dot stickers to every available surface. Not surprisingly, this room is the exhibition’s most popular attraction, particularly for children. After just a few weeks, the pristine surface of the white room has nearly completely disappeared under the endless specks of brilliant color that envelop it. The room represents for the artist a domestic space that was once the source of her childhood anxiety. Yet this exhibition, and the collective pleasant memories it is creating for the young collaborators participating in it, seem to aim at replacing that ancient anxiety with something sweeter.