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Yayoi Kusama

Fireflies on the Water



Yayoi Kusama (1929-)


Fireflies on the Water




Mirrors, plexiglass, lights, and water


Overall: 111 × 144 1/2 × 144 1/2 in. (281.9 × 367 × 367 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Postwar Committee and the Contemporary Painting and Sculpture Committee and partial gift of Betsy Wittenborn Miller

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Object Label

Fireflies on the Water is a room-sized installation that is meant to be viewed in solitude, one person at a time. It consists of a small, darkened room lined with mirrors on all sides; a pool of water in the center of the space into which a dock-like viewing platform protrudes; and 150 small lights hanging from the ceiling. In tandem, these components create a dazzling effect of direct and reflected light, emanating from both the mirrors and the water’s surface. Space appears infinite, with no top or bottom, beginning or end. Like Yayoi Kusama’s earliest room-sized installations—including Infinity Mirror Room (1965), in which she combined mirrors and her signature polka-dotted phallic protrusions in an enclosed chamber—Fireflies embodies an almost hallucinatory approach to reality. While related to the artist’s personal mythology and therapeutic working process, it also refers to sources as varied as the myth of Narcissus and Kusama’s native Japanese landscape.

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