Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Anish Kapoor, beyond material concerns

Indian-British artist Anish Kapoor poses in front of his work “Untitled” (1990) installed at Leeum in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

/ Courtesy of the artist and Leeum

Anish Kapoor, the sculptor of the 2012 London Olympics’ “Orbit,” came to Korea with his signature works and pigment series, “Auto-generation” and recent steel sculptures.

This exhibition currently under way at Leeum museum is designed to review what Kapoor has done for some 30 years of his artistic career.

“We chose works that can represent Kapoor’s lifelong theme of pursuing what is the non-material behind material,” said Tae Hyun-sun, curator of Leeum.

“For every material object, there is a non-material condition in it,” and the phrase explores the thoughts behind Kapoor’s works, Tae said.

The artist who is holding his first exhibition in East Asia sounded like more of a philosopher who unravels his thoughts in the form of fine art. “Scientific ways are incomplete and we are forced to reflect them philosophically,” Kapoor, 58, said.

Upon entering the Ground Gallery in the museum’s Rem Koolhaas-designed building, a giant egg-shaped steel sculpture greets visitors. Titled “Cave,” the 2012 work explores darkness as an origin of creation.

“Inside the sculpture is total darkness at first, but visitors can see details as their eyes become adjusted to the darkness,” Tae said.
“To Reflect an Intimate Part of the Red” (1981) is one of Kapoor’s early pigment works blurring the boundary between the sculpture and the floor by having the pigment on the floor as well as covering the sculpture.

Kapoor’s Void series is somewhere between painting and sculpture, as it looks like a monochrome painting, but it also offers an abyss from its hole. “Untitled” (1990) is composed of a blue-black pigment, creating a space full of darkness, not an empty, dark space.

His signature work “Yellow” (1999) is also on display, creating a scintillating aura on the depth of a wall. It is both an artwork and an exquisite piece of architecture taking into consideration just how it burrows into the wall of the museum. Its bright yellow color and soft curves gives the angulated gallery space a contrast. “When I Am Pregnant” (1992) billows gently from the wall, like a belly of a pregnant woman. Kapoor is conscious of the beauty of feminine procreation, explained by how he captures that in his works.

Do not miss “The Earth” (1991) near the escalator going up to the Black Box. Though it appears to be a small, flat blue dot, it is actually a deep shaft in the floor.

The other very representative character of his work is color. In “My Red Homeland” (2003) on display at the Black Box spaces, viewers can see how he uses color. The piece looks like a giant clock face and a hammer rotates slowly, pushing the crimson red wax, reminiscence of blood and flesh. It is one of “Auto-generation” series of works, of which Kapoor does not intentionally make shape of artworks. “It is Kapoor’s way of interpreting how the world was created,” Tae said.

While “My Red Homeland” signifies maternity, vertical wax piece “Stack” (2007) is more close to masculinity. “The Black Box is designed to express the theme of creation. The space has much implication of sexuality, not in an obscene way, but a cradle of humanity,” Tae said.

A transparent acrylic sculpture “Laboratory for a New Model of the Universe” (2007) can be interpreted as the result of “creation.”
The exhibit continues to the outdoor deck of Leeum where Kapoor’s shiny stainless sculptures reflect the environment around them. Such glossy surface shows how Kapoor uses materiality to overcome the characteristics of the material.

“Vertigo V” (2012) and “Vertigo VII” (2012) are two large concave mirrors, which provide distorted images of the viewer and the museum. Such morphed image is non-material, as it takes away solid corporeality of the object. “Sky Mirror,” a large round-shaped steel work, reflects the sky and the landscape upside down.

Kapoor was inspired by German poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Sonnets to Orpheus” and created “Tall Tree and the Eye,” another piece on display at the deck. Composed of more than 70 stainless steel balls symbolizing eyes, the sculpture creates numerous reflections.
Louise Bourgeois’s “Maman,” which has been installed in front of Leeum since 2006, gave room to Kapoor’s works.

Kapoor is an Indian-British and he combines the aesthetics of the East and the West, but he seemed not to be bound in such categorization. “When I go into the studio every day, I don’t decide to make something beautiful or spiritual. It is more a long-term process and you cannot just make it happen,” he said.

Kapoor emphasized that he doesn’t have much to say about his works. “I have nothing to say as an artist. I open the possibility of meaning and many of my works invite viewers. It is an interaction,” he said.

The “Anish Kapoor” at Leeum runs through Jan. 27, 2013. Admission is 8,000 won for this exhibit and 14,000 won if combined with permanent exhibition. English docent program is available at 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information, visit or call (02) 2014-6900.

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