Roberta Smith’s New York Times article gives a brief overview of the life works of Yayoi Kunama and an account of Kunama most recent exhibition at the Zwirnier Space in New York City.
Yayoi Kunama first came to rise as an artist during the 1960s and has continued to produce avante-garde work to this day. She began with paintings on canvas during the abstract expressionist period of the 1960s. She slowly moved into creating installation projects made from found objects. Through out her experimentation with installation she began incorporating phalluses and mirrors, both of which remained a trend in her later works of art. Eventually Kunama moved towards making video art projects, using many techniques and styles from her installation projects to create the setting for her videos. Her latest endeavors have been Infinity Rooms. These rooms are filled with mirrors reflecting each other all over, creating a sense of flying and endless space.
Today, now 88 years old, Yayoi Kunama is still producing work. Even today, she does all of the painting and constructing herself. Her latest installation at the Zwirnier Space in NYC includes her 2d show Infinity Nets, made up of 10 paintings, all of which were made in the past year. These paintings have an “automatic yet meditative quality” with a focus on dots, repetition, process, spacial illusion, and a feeling of moving and shifting. The exhibit also has infinity rooms. The infinity room titled Lets Survive Together is a room covered completely in mirrors lined entirely with silvery orbs. It is possible that the infinity rooms are attempting to capture the “enormity of love, death and god.”
The article also mentioned that it is well known that Yayoi Kunama has long struggled with mental health problems. These problems, including severe auditory and visual hallucinations, resulted in her hospitalization at one point.
I think that Kunama’s Infinity Rooms sound so fascinating. I can image that entering one feels like entering a new world. I was curious about her infinity rooms so I looked up a few videos to try to get a sense of the experience. Even from the videos, it feels like all senses of time and place and location are lost. It seems to me that suffering from mental health problems, especially ones that illicit hallucinations, might cause a person to in a way lose touch with reality, and that is certainly a feeling that is present in these infinity rooms. But they aren’t scary seeming the way I imagine hallucinations might be, they are far more tranquil and fantastical. This article left me wondering to what extent does Kunama’s mental health problems shape her Infinity Rooms, and in what ways.
Video of Infinity Room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vebDk7xQmCw