Exploring London: Yayoi Kusama at Victoria Miro
When I first saw a photo of the piece All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, I was instantly captivated. Word on the street is that that was how most Londoners found themselves with this same intense need to go stand in a room full of the squash sculptures. And I admit, I'm a bit late to the game which was extra shameful when I realized just how close we live to the exhibit—walking distance—unheard of, right!? Luckily I made my way down to both Victoria Miro galleries in time to see Yayoi Kusama's work before it goes on its merry way this weekend. The final day for the exhibit is on Saturday, July 30th so that means you better get out there today or tomorrow to enjoy and not miss out!
Victoria Miro opened her first gallery 1985 in the London neighborhood of Mayfair. While it is no longer at that exact location, you can still find the gallery calling Mayfair its home on 14 St George Street. This is where we began our journey through Kusama's work. Entering the gallery alone is an experience. After you ring the doorbell to get in, the door unlocks and opens to reveal a white wall. This is when you ask yourself, what the...!? as the wall slowly slides away to reveal the clean simple space of the gallery.
We grabbed the information from the desk about the Kusama and her paintings before walking through the rooms with the large 194 x 194cm bright vibrant paintings of the My Eternal Soul exhibit. Yayoi Kusama was born in Japan where she studied painting before moving to New York in the 50s. She quickly made herself well known as she explored many avenues of her creativity and even eventually later working alongside with Louis Vuitton in 2012. Though it is said that she doesn't quite fit into any artistic category (and I can strongly agree) her work encompasses a variety of surrealism, minimalism, and—the first thing to come to my mind after viewing these paintings—pop art. Her use of polkadots and bright colors quickly reminded me of Roy Lichtenstein though I would never in a million years say they produced similar work. Kusama's work feels like a stream of conscious flowing organically through her brush as she creates the lively patterns pulled from her response to hallucinations as a child. In the simplest words, they're wacky and stunning.
Having the gallery to ourselves (a complete 180 from the Wharf Road gallery space we went to later) made the experience so pleasant. This is what my dreams are made of—being able to stand in font of beautiful pieces of art and fully reflect without anyone nudging you or breathing down your neck. You get to immerse yourself into the work and really experience it to its fullest. I enjoyed taking my time just letting my eyes following through the the lines and shapes within the paintings.
Later in the day, we made our way back to our neck of the woods and over to the other Victoria Miro location. Sitting at 18 Wharf Road, the space which was opened in 2000 is a beautifully converted furniture factory spanning 2 floors with a unique garden space on the canal. When we arrived we were shocked to see the line to get into the gallery snaking up a few blocks. We quickly realized we should have come earlier and made plans to return first thing the following weekend. While we got there a little before the the opening time of the gallery (10:00am), a line had already formed. This time to we stuck it out and waited a little over an hour to get in. Once in, you do have to continue waiting in lines for the mirror rooms but it does move quickly since they limit the time each visitor gets in the rooms. The shortest viewing was just 20 seconds for All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins. I guess that is our punishment for going on a weekend!
All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins was up on the second floor and the first mirror room we entered. It was interesting to see the pumpkin sculptures and their details but also the illusions that the mirrors created by boxing you in. It looked like we were standing in miles and miles of it all. We had a similar experience in the both of the other two mirror rooms as well but each had its own vibe. The Chandelier of Grief room had a more polygon like shape and there was just one chandelier in the middle of the room that created the thousands of chandeliers in the reflections. It felt glamorous in there.
There are more paintings in another room at the Wharf Road gallery and there is another final mirror installation outside in the garden where it is on display alongside Narcissus Garden. Where the Lights in My Heart Go makes you feel like you are in space standing amongst the stars. The small lights bounce around the mirrors and feel like they have a certain weight to them, even though they are tiny. And, if I'm honest, I felt most connected to this one. It had me wishing there wasn't a time limit so I could really take it all in. The illusions and the atmosphere created a purely magical feel but you also felt the vastness of the negative space between each glow of light.
Yayoi Kusama's work was playful, imaginative, and esthetically pleasing. While the paintings showed you the inner workings of her brain reflecting and recalling, the mirrors took you inside and put you right in the middle of it all. When art can make you think and feel something, it has done its job right.
14 St George Street
London W1S 1FE
16 Wharf Road
London N1 7RW