But “The Obliteration Room” is just fun, namely because it grants an opportunity to immerse yourself entirely in Kusama’s eccentric world. Her mirror rooms, though transportive, offer limited experiences — you can’t walk further than a few feet in each — and you can’t touch anything, of course. Many of her sculptures unfortunately shed some of their magic, staunchly established as objects in a museum as they perch on platforms, are set to the side, or stand behind rope. The yellow tentacles of “Life (Repetitive Vision”) (1998) could have appeared to break through the museum’s floor like an unruly cephalopod rather than served up like exotic calamari on a white platter. The eye-popping series My Eternal Soul is presented as if in a showroom, with sculptures standing in front of large paintings stacked one atop another.
These are all intricate, vibrant works that when grouped together, distract from individual appreciation. Reminiscent of carnivorous plants with alluring spines and bulbous forms, the sculptures deserve to be seen in the round. I imagine them planted across the gallery to create a delightfully grotesque garden of metal and stuffed cotton— but of course, much of this space is designed to accommodate crowds. Yoshitake told me she would have liked to do away with the platforms, but the dangers of the blockbuster exhibition are simply too great. It’s a pity these obstructions are unavoidable. Thirty seconds is far too short to find an inner tranquility, but these spiny forms don’t fail to endlessly mesmerize even in their separate corral. They make plain that one does not need mirrors to generate worlds unbounded.
Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors continues at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden (Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC) through May 14.