Newsletter Fall 2018

Three Critiques of Anish Kapoor's "Untitled"

by Poppy Gauss, Cohort ’16

 Image of  Untitled , 20101 by Anish Kapoor. Colby College Museum of Art. Photo by Poppy Gauss

Image of Untitled, 20101 by Anish Kapoor. Colby College Museum of Art. Photo by Poppy Gauss

FORMAL

The power of Anish Kapoor’s work is largely conceptual; it is, however, fundamentally grounded in formal aspects. Untitled, 2010 at the Colby College Museum, is a large mirrored concave dish, floating just in front of the museum wall. The surface is alien, hard and deeply polished. The circumference of the dish is a jagged hexagon, its surface comprised of a triangular grid, which forms a large tessellation. The mirrored surface reflects the space and light of its exact location. The apparent tiling of the mirrored surface, abstracts all figures within the reflection, and creates a pulsation of rhythm when reflecting movement.

The work is playing a strange game with symmetry. Symmetry is embedded within the structure of the work, while at the same time distorting and disjointing all it reflects. Light striking the piece is reflected in a bottleneck shape, down onto the floor immediately in front of the work. The illusion of infinite of space created by the work has a distinct and present backing. The structure’s ground can be located in space. The conceptual nature of Kapoor’s work, his ‘saying’ is grounded in, and supported by, this intensely formal architecture. Everything about this piece shoots outward like a beam; lines of sight, diagonals flaring out, in every trajectory, with a distinct starting point, the place in which the work is anchored to the wall.

PHENOMENOLOGICAL

Approaching the work, one senses immediately the geometry of higher dimensions, of space emerging and receding, emptying out and filling up. It draws the viewer into its beam and directs his line of sight into the dish, where it then releases its grasp on the viewer’s focal point and sets it bouncing off. Even the slightest movement of the eyes fractures and multiplies the reflections. Here the work itself entices the viewer to search for a whole, while continuously discovering new fragments, fractures and distortions. Depending upon the viewer’s position in relation to the work, the viewer finds oneself absent from the dish entirely or filling every mirrored cell. The horizon flips or does not appear at all.

I am shattered into a million fragments, along with everything else within the scene, and yet I sense the general shape of things, the ways in which all is connected. The impulse toward movement elicits a sensation of ritual. A repetition of movement occurs, side to side, forward and back, a nodding of the head, a small dance with the work. The piece draws the viewer in and looks back. It evokes a memory of rippling luminescent worlds and asks for meditative contemplation. An emphatic question emerges, what are you looking at? What are you looking for?  

The work turns space inside out. Because the viewer is engulfed within the concave reflection, the inversion of space includes the viewer. The viewer makes an invisible approach, but upon reaching a certain point, fills the field entirely. Finally, moving even closer, the viewer is abstracted and contained within the space of reflection. The viewer’s reflection disappears and reappears as one moves in front of the dish. A space has been created where one cannot help but find oneself at the edge of infinity while also being dispersed throughout.

HERMENEUTIC

While referencing traditions and working within the framework of an institutional fine art, Kapoor also questions myths of the avant garde. He attempts to remove any evidence of the hand of the artist and create an illusion of auto-generated objects

Spaces full of mirror negates and, at the same time, complicates the space. Everything is at once connected and yet cleft. An inversion of the world occurs that includes space and the viewer. The work acts as in interactive text in multiple ways. Formally, the work is interactive in that, as the viewer moves in relation to the work, the work changes; its location and lighting affect the composition of the reflected scene. The viewer’s perception of the work also continuously shifts. It is conceptually interactive because the form itself can be referenced or read as a sign, in multiple ways. Visually the object’s shape recalls a giant snowflake or fisheye, interpreted as a marriage of the universal to the particular in the creation of a singular. The pattern created across the surface of the dish recalls tessellations used in Ancient Roman or Islamic art. The object itself reminds one of Mayan and Aztec calendar rounds, and can be read as a meditation on multiplicity of the sacred.

Untitled, 2010 also manifests many notions of space. The polished stainless steel concave object resembles a satellite dish, a romantic nod to communicating with what is alien, out there in the beyond. Within the reflected scene appearing before the viewer, outer space turns inside out, the horizon disappears and the infinite emerges. This work is literally a reflection on the nature of being, singularity as distinct while ultimately connected to all other singularities. An object of mechanical production that somehow manages to retain its aura.