Yayoi Kusama's 'Dots Obsession'

John Hill
7. September 2016
All photographs by John Hill/World-Architects

The name of the installation, Dots Obsession - Alive, Seeking for Eternal Hope - is simultaneously telling and enigmatic. Kusama's obsession with dots is readily apparent from one glance at her polka-dot attire, but the eternal hope of the title is not as immediately clear. The 87-year-old Kusama worked with Philip Johnson Glass House curator Irene Shum and the artist's studio on what she envisioned as a one-of-a-kind "Infinity Room." Unlike her mirrored "Infinity Rooms," which are devoid of context, Dots Obsession interacts with the Glass House from 1949 to change visitors' perceptions of it. In this sense, the application of the red dots makes Johnson's building come alive – a new reality (Kusama's) layered upon the old one (Johnson's).

The timing of the installation is for maximum effect: the red dots contrast sharply with the green of the grass and the trees, particularly when seen from inside the Glass House. One month later and the dots would have to compete with the colors of the changing leaves.

Dots Obsession is actually one of a triptych of pieces by Yayoi Kusama on display on the 49-acre property. Pumpkin (2015) sits on a slope overlooking the Glass House.

Down the hill from the Glass House is Kusama's Narcissus Garden, made up of 1,300 floating stainless steel spheres. As we mentioned when presenting the piece earlier this year, the original installation dates back to 1966 and the 33rd Venice Art Biennale. Here, in the newly restored pond, the floating spheres that move gently in the wind serve to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Philip Johnson’s birth and the 10th anniversary of his estate opening to the public under the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Returning to Dots Obsession, although it appears that the red dots exist only in contrast to the black steel and rectilinear form of the Glass House, there are a few circular precedents on the property. First is the brick volume that houses the bathroom and hearth.

Second are the round windows on the rear side of the Brick House, which was built at the same time as the Glass House and served as its solid, introverted twin.

Third and last is the swimming pool, which forms a triangle across the open lawn with the Glass House and the Brick House.

The "infiniteness" of the dots is accentuated when the sun comes out, when the dots are doubled as shadows on the brick floor.

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