The exhibition “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” at the Hirshhorn Museum is great fun if you like to be dazzled by rooms whose mirrored interiors create countless, ever-diminishing reflections of themselves and anything in them. And who doesn’t?
Kusama, who was born in Japan in 1929, made her first Infinity Mirror room, “Phalli’s Field,” in New York in 1965, filling the 15-square-foot floor of a mirrored space with hundreds of her signature stuffed phalli, or tubers, covered in red-on-white polka-dot fabric. The effect was glorious, beguiling. And still is: “Phalli’s Field” is the first mirrored environment in the Hirshhorn show. Step into it and you enter another world, an eye-popping garden of benign cactuses spreading out in all directions, or an underwater wonderland of coral or sea anemones.
Over the past several decades, “Phalli’s Field” and the 19 other mirrored rooms Kusama has made since have established her as a beloved figure. Crowds line up around the block to enter her rooms, one person at a time; absorb their illusionistic, sometimes meditative effects; and step out, usually after the requisite selfie. Some time ago, she transcended the art world to become a fixture of popular culture, in a league with Andy Warhol, David Hockney and Keith Haring, all of whom she preceded and probably influenced, not least in her grasp of publicity.