Montreal introduces us to Yayoi Kusama at the Phi Foundation Contemporary Arts Museum this July. The artist, being from Japan, is known primarily for her Infinity Mirrored Rooms, where solo audience members are indulged in a giant disco universe. Since 1965, the artist has produced more than 20 other projects of this sort of installation. Both curator Cherl Sim and director Phil Foundation were ecstatic and thrilled to be able to present such a prominent and significant artist, especially from their era.
Kusama, who was born in 1929, has dedicated the majority of her seventy-year career to trying to position the individual in the cosmos. Her comprehensive works have a pop art aesthetic that attracts audiences because of their scale and simplicity, making Kusama somewhat of an enduring rock star in the art community.
The exhibit plays a role in the Phi Foundation’s 15th-anniversary festivities, which includes two Infinity Mirrored Rooms: Dancing Lights That Flew Up to the Universe (2019) and Brilliance of the Souls (2014). Guests are given just the right amount of time alone in space in order to feel at one with the universe. With this spectacular experience in front of your eyes, it might be challenging to avoid the impulse to grab your phone and want to record the moment but instead, it’s encouraged to ignore that urge and fully immerse yourself.
People are constantly trying to comprehend the complexity of philosophy, spirituality, religion and more of our world when it’s more than what we’re capable of solving. Such fundamental issues have caused Kusama significant personal hardship. Prior to checking herself into the Tokyo clinic, where she is currently a patient, she struggled with mental health issues and hallucinations.
The two Old Montreal buildings that make up the Phi Foundation are home to the small yet impactful exhibition. Three elaborate yet organic bronze-covered pumpkin statues, titled Pumpkin (S), Pumpkin (M), and Pumpkin (L), from 2016 await visitors as they enter the first exhibit, located at 451 St-Jean St. Kusama frequently uses gourds as a motif in her artwork. According to the exhibit text, the artist originally encountered them when she was a young girl while playing in the meadows with her grandfather. She was fascinated by “their charming and winsome form,” “generous unpretentiousness,” and “solid spiritual balance.”
The Universe as Seen From the Stairway to Heaven (2022) and My Evanescent Dream Within a Dream (2022) both feature “peep-in” mirrored rooms that entice visitors to take a peek into a box and enter a stunning 3D LED scenery in which their own and their neighbours’ mirrored faces get to be a part of the shimmery stretch of land.
Eight enormous canvases from Kusama’s most recent series, My Eternal Soul (2013–2016), combine mobile networks, faces, eyes, and profiles with zany routes and designed patterns in vibrant colour schemes.
Kusama is also known to frequently be captured in photographs beside her work while clothed in a way that makes her virtually blend in with it just like her audiences. If one thing is for sure, it is that Kusama’s devotion to understanding how to help others feel understood and feel a part of something is more than Palpable, it is downright immersive.
Tala is an Editorial Intern at Liminul. She’s a creative writer/director, graphic designer, and event coordinated based in Toronto. Tala is a third year student majoring in Fashion Communications at X University.