Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama connects the dots of eternity

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EVERLASTING LOVE ­— “Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love” is on view at the San Francisco Museum of Art through May 28. photo by Derek Tahara/Nichi Bei News

SFMOMA exhibit ‘Infinite Love’ has final ticket sales on April 11

“Was the beauty at the end of one’s life nothing more than an illusion? Would you give me an answer to this?” asks the yearning intonation that floats over Yayoi Kusama’s “LOVE IS CALLING.”

The question is a perfect representation of the complexity of Kusama’s work. At 95 years old, the world-renowned Japanese artist, famous for her polka-dots and bright colors, nears the culmination of her life, and yet she continues to struggle with the concepts of eternity and mortality through her art.

The “Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love” exhibit arrived at the SFMOMA last October, featuring two of Kusama’s signature infinity mirror rooms: “Dreaming of Earth’s Sphericity, I Would Offer My Love” (2023) and “LOVE IS CALLING” (2013). Kusama’s mirror rooms allow visitors to enter an illusion of infinite space and have become something of a social media phenomenon. This exhibit is the first time they have visited Northern California, and it has drawn over 87,000 visitors since it opened. While the exhibit may be called

Infinite Love, the tickets to the exhibit are finite. Final tickets for this exhibit go on sale on Thursday, April 11, and the show will close on May 28.

After waiting in line for forty minutes at the SFMOMA, I was skeptical of the box-shaped rooms’ overall blank and unassuming exteriors. However, walking into Kusama’s world is like falling inside a shaking kaleidoscope — one can’t help but stare. Her mirrors allow visitors to gaze at life’s infinite possibilities while simultaneously evoking a sense of solitude within their eternal reflection.

If you aren’t quiet, you might miss the soft voice of then 95-year-old Kusama while wandering through “LOVE IS CALLING.” She recites the Japanese version of her poem “Residing in a Castle of Shed Tears,” which dives into themes of life, death, and her desire to spread love through her art.

Kusama’s steady, unrelenting words are a stark contrast to the installation itself, the inside of which looks like something out of an animated Disney movie. Her signature polka dots are present in color-changing tentacles that seem to have infested the floors, walls, and ceiling. One might expect the recording’s subdued monotone to disappear into the exhibit’s bright colors and selfie-perfect mirrors, but Kusama’s voice is heavy; it lingers.

After being ushered out of the installation, I was immediately drawn to the translation of the poem hanging outside. Inside the exhibit, I had felt Kusama’s words, her questioning of life and death through her art, without knowing what she had meant, but after reading her words, the grief, yearning, and quest for love became clear.

By the poem’s end, Kusama begins to come to terms with her legacy: “Devoting all my heart to you, I have lived through to this day / Hoping to leave beautiful footprints at the end of my life.”

One of those beautiful footprints will undoubtedly be her mirror rooms, promising to guide us in embracing the limitless possibilities within our lives.

The “Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love” exhibit is on view at the San Francisco Museum of Art through May 28. The next and final batch of tickets go on sale April 11. The museum, which is located at 151 Third St. in San Francisco, is open Mondays and Tuesdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 1 to 8 p.m., and Fridays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information, call (415) 357-4000 or visit https://www.sfmoma.org/exhibition/yayoi-kusama-infinite-love.

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