Thursday, 22 July 2010

Anish Kapoor Exhibition, Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao

Anish Kapoor is a British-based Indian (born Bombay 1954) who has spent much of his career exploring the nature of sculpture. This major solo exhibition, presented jointly by The Royal Academy and The Gugenheim Museum Bilbao working in collaboration with the artist, poses important questions about the relationship between the sculptor and the viewer, the place of automation in the artistic process, and explores the boundary between two- and three- dimensional art. Each gallery marks a stage in Kapoor's development as he devoted his career to exploring these questions.
First gallery: Exploring the context (my title)
Here Kapoor presents us with a series of pieces all finished in a pigment?of primary colours The images themselves are unexceptional but Kapoor challenges the norms by presenting some of the images in unconventional places in the gallery such as in the top left hand corner of one of the main walls. The most interesting work in this room is a barely visible instilation - in fact it is its illusionary quality that makes the piece. Titled When I am pregnant (1992), it comprises a white convex bump that protudes out of the white display wall. Viewed straight on it is almost invisible - it has to be viewed laterally to be appreciated. Here Kapoor, by playing a trick on the viewer, challenges our perceptions of what constitutes art: the piece is both 3D and 'No'-D depending on the perspective of the observer.
Second Gallery: Exploring the void.
By creating three dimensional images containing dark spaces within them Kapoor invites the viewer to explore the nature of No-space. In hollowing out a section of sandstone and painting the interior Prussian Blue, Kapoor creates confusion for the viewer: is this a black image painted on the surface of the stone? Or is it a void hollowed out? The viewer's perception changes depending on the angle from which the piece is seen. Kapoor makes the most of the fact that the viewer is deprived of the key sense by which he can resolve his dilemma by the "Do not touch" rules of the gallery.
Third Gallery: Exploring the artistic process I.
Here Kapoor has created a series of objects made of concrete through a Computer-aided Manufacturing technique partly borrowed from the food processing industry. The result is a series of piles of "excretions" of varying shapes. Kapoor's methodology challenges the traditional view of the sculptor as artist and poses questions about the mechanisation of the artistic product - a theme to which Kapoor returns again in his work and in the exhibition.

Fourth Gallery: Exploring perspective.

Kapoor is perhaps best known for his public sculptures using highly polished stainless steel to create mirror structures (e.g. his monumental Cloud Gate in Chicago). By using convex and concave mirrors Kapoor encourages the viewer to participate in the artistic process as their shifting perspective alters the nature of the image. Thus the artist does not define the image, rather he facilitates it.
Fifth and Sixth Galleries: Exploring the artistic process II and III.
A cannon fires shells of red wax into the corner of a gallery creating a bloody splurge of devastation trailing down the walls. A 3m beam moves like the minute hand a clock over a bed of deep red Vaseline sculpting and re-forming the surface with each rotation. Deep red is clearly an important colour for Kapoor and gives these two monumental pieces Isomewhat macabre feel. Like the First Cause, Kapoor has started the process bringing his creation into being but thereafter plays the role only of ambivalent observer.
This was a fascinating exhibition that satisfied the mind not the senses.

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