Why on earth would a nocturnal creature such as myself wake up at an uncivilized hour on a frigidly cold Saturday morning in November just to stand on line for nearly two hours–and not just any line but a discouragingly gargantuan queue that appeared to stretch into infinity? A fair question. And the answer is quite simple: when you have the opportunity to see recent works from an artist of Yayoi Kusama’s caliber, whose contributions have been essential to some of the most important artistic movements of the 20th Century, you dig deep. You pull on your big boy pants and wrap yourself in a puffer jacket. You fill a thermos with strong coffee. And you get moving.
“I, Kusama, am the modern Alice in Wonderland.”
Is it any wonder that we’re fans?
Festival of Life, currently on display at David Zwirner Gallery in Chelsea, features three installations and a series of paintings. All contain a familiar aesthetic that runs through much of Kusama’s oeuvre: the obsessive repetition of patterns or objects with the aim of challenging the notion of physical, emotional, and intellectual boundaries in art and life.
There are two Infinity Mirror Rooms included in this exhibition. “Longing For Eternity” invites the viewer to look through three apertures into a module containing a hexagonally patterned mirror with color-changing bulbs. “Let’s Survive Forever” is a mirrored room jammed full of reflective stainless steel balls. In a third adjacent room, the sculpture-installation “With All My Love For The Tulips, I Pray Forever” contains an environment of oversized flower-potted tulips in fiberglass-reinforced plastic, which incorporates the floor, ceiling, and walls. Finally, in the last section of the gallery (accessible next door), there are 66 double-hung acrylic on canvas paintings from Kusama’s “My Eternal Soul” series.
To say that Kusama’s work is an immersive experience is a gross understatement; it’s closer to an assimilated experience. You walk into a room and find yourself overwhelmed by the color, patterns, and in some works, reflections. And suddenly, you become a part of the installation. For Kusama, perhaps the goal has always been to integrate (or, as she likes to say, “obliterate”) the audience as much as her subjects.
Regardless of the long lines and wait times, Festival of Life is a must-see exhibition from a seminal artist still at the top of her game while in the twilight of her life.
If you’re interested in taking in the exhibit, here are some survival tips:
Get there early! Wait times can run between 2 and 4 hours. The wait will get longer as the day goes, so going early might be your best play. The line will close ahead of the gallery closing so don’t come late. You can follow David Zwirner on Twitter for line updates and closings.
Dress appropriately! You’ll be exposed to the elements.
Go with a friend who can hold the line. Or make friends with the people in line with you. There are no restrooms at the gallery.
Plan your shots in advance. The Infinity Mirror Rooms have strictly enforced time limits; 1 minute for “Let’s Survive Forever” and 30 seconds for “Longing For Eternity”.
Bring rations. The smart people in line were eating breakfast sandwiches and donuts while the rest of us drooled.
Festival of Life is free of charge and open to the public. It will be on display through December 16, 2017.
525 & 533 W 19th St
Tuesday – Saturday 10 am – 6 pm
Closed on Thursday, November 23 for Thanksgiving
Pair it with:
Brunch at Empire Diner
Waiting in line makes you hangry. Okay, waiting in line makes me hangry. So after we oohed and aahed at some incredible art, we sought out some much-needed sustenance. If you find yourself in the same position, nearby Empire Diner is an excellent choice to meet that need. Empire Diner, with its iconic Art Moderne exterior, has been a West Chelsea neighborhood staple since the mid-70’s and is one of the last freestanding diners in New York City.
In its storied history, the diner’s interior has gone through as many iterations as owners (and that’s a lot), but somehow the landmark has stood the test of time. Although the current interior aesthetic has a more bright, modern feel, with pale-colored wood and white tiles, it still very much embodies a classic diner with plenty of glass and vintage stainless steel touches. The offerings are decidedly straightforward American with occasional twists that are more a reflection of creative detailing than broad brush strokes. Whether it’s the Double Patty Burger with American Cheese and herbed french fries, Rye Pancakes, or Soft Scramble Eggs Cacio e Pepe, Empire Diner is certainly more silver spoon than greasy spoon, but it still gets the job done.
210 10th Ave
Monday – Saturday 8 am – 1 am
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