From Yoko Ono to Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda to Maxine Waters, women being celebrated for their irrepressible relevance and mettle into their 80s continues to be an inspiration – and a gift – to a world still rife with those who would seek to devalue their essentialness.
And so it is that the newly minted exaltation of radical pop artist Yayoi Kusama is important beyond just the quality of her work. It is about her power to continue to inspire. Especially as she first flowered at a time (the 1960s) when art was very much an uncontested boys’ club.
The epic presentation of her Cleveland Museum of Art – an institution, by the way, that can easily be considered alongside the likes of New York’s Metropolitan and London’s British Museum for its cultural gravitas – exhibition Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (which runs through September 30) is thusly layered with meaning. And it rises to the occasion with its ability to evoke wonder and illusion.
Indeed, in addition to the magical paintings from her ’60s-era “Polka-Dot Happenings,” seven of her universally lauded Infinity Mirror Rooms are on display – more than have ever been assembled in one place.
“This exhibition celebrates the remarkable career and enduring legacy of one of the most important living artists, who continues to evolve and inspire,” enthuses Reto Thüring, curator of contemporary art at the museum. “The show’s narrative spans the entire arc of Kusama’s groundbreaking oeuvre, from her early collages, paintings and sculptures, up to some of her most recent Infinity Mirror Rooms and architectural installations.”
While the very notion of spectacle is a key feature of the show, it would be wrong to see the Infinity Mirrors as acts of bombast or hyperbole. Rather, they are meant to alter our sense of reality and our relation to it – allowing a moment to step out beyond of our banal existence, and then come back with a new sense of possibilities. They are, in a sense, a trip.
It’s also a great reason to be in Cleveland, a city that continues its spectacular cultural rebirth.