With a name like “The Obliteration Room,” the keystone installation of Yayoi Kusama’s exhibition at David Zwirner sounds grim. The mind imagines perhaps black walls, gray graffiti and mushroom clouds. But nothing could be further from the truth. What you see from the outside is quite cheerful, a small replica of a mid-century prefab American house, complete with flag and plastic lawn furniture. The impact, however, is inside.
The very first visitors to the interior of the Obliteration Room would have found it stark, an all-white space designed as a dwelling, with furniture and dishes and ornaments, all in the same shade of bright white. But those first visitors were also the first to transform that space. On entrance, each viewer is given a sheet of stickers, a dozen or so colored circles in vivid colors and varied sizes. And they’re told to put them anywhere they choose.
After 1300 visitors on the exhibit’s first Saturday, nothing in the room was left stark white. Colorful dots adorned everything. The walls, the ceilings, the floors. The empty picture frames. The door. All of the furniture. The laptop on the desk, the statue on the bookshelf, the plates on the table. The sofas and chairs, the lamps, the cabinets. The room was a blur of color so intense that it was hard to focus on the original shapes. One could even say their outlines had been… obliterated.
Dots, usually placed by her own hand rather than the public whim, are a common theme of Kusama’s work and have been since childhood, according to the artist. Her other works in the exhibit include a set of huge sculptures of polka-dotted pumpkins and a number of vast abstract canvases of quilt-like patterns textured with, you guessed it, more dots.