Mirroring its surroundings to reflect a rose-tinted microcosm of ambient space, Untitled is an exquisite example of Anish Kapoor’s inimitable investigation into the possibilities of interior and exterior space. Seeming to float effortlessly in suspense above the ground, Kapoor’s dish appears to simultaneously curve outwards and inwards, distorting perception and awareness as our gaze passes across it. The luminous reflectivity of the surface radiates light, and emits a sense of meditative calm and repose. Untitledinvites contemplation: by circumnavigating the work we become an integral part of the whole, thus making every viewer’s experience of the piece subtly different.
Untitled forms part of Kapoor’s iconic corpus of mirrored sculptures, in which the possibilities of the circular format in a range of reflective materials and colors are explored. The seductive red of the present work, however, is of particular significance. Kapoor has always considered red to be a highly symbolic color, and many of his most important large-scale works – such as Marsyas, My Red Homeland (both 2003) Past, Present, Future (2006) and Svayambh (2007) – have been executed in varying shades of red. Kapoor has spoken of the importance of red in his work: “I use red a lot… It’s true that in Indian culture red is a powerful thing; it is the color a bride wears; it is associated with the matriarchal, which is central to Indian psychology. So I can see what leads me there culturally, but there’s more to it. One of the ways color has been used in art since the Eighteenth Century is to move, as in Turner, from color to light. I tend to go from color to darkness. Red has a very powerful blackness. This overt color, this open and visually beckoning color, also associates itself with a dark interior world. And that’s the real reason I’m interested in it” (Anish Kapoor in conversation with Nicholas Baume in Exhibition Catalogue, Boston, Institute of Contemporary Art, Anish Kapoor: Past, Present, Future, 2008, p. 31).
Untitled also invites connections with the idea of the Sublime, in particular, the post-modern version of the concept as posited by Jean-François Lyotard. Lyotard argued that certain examples of contemporary art sought to represent ideas or themes which were impossible to truly delineate in physical form, thus arousing sensations of awe and bewilderment in the viewer as we are forced to confront concepts our mind is unable to truly comprehend. Lyotard viewed the work of Barnett Newman – with its walls of pure color undisturbed by figural or objective concerns – as being the ultimate exponent of the post-modern Sublime; yet, Kapoor’s mirrored works arguably also fulfill the conditions of post-modern Sublimity in their profound exploration of complex theory and philosophy through a totally abstract dialectic. The shimmering surfaces and the curved space of the series of wall mounted mirror installations induce a corresponding sense of disorienting arrest, not only cognitively but also physically and spatially. Indeed, the Sublime has been of abiding fascination for Kapoor throughout his career, and he has frequently spoken of the idea about his mirrored works: “It seemed it was not a mirrored object but an object full of mirroredness. The spatial questions it seemed to ask were not about deep space but about present space, which I began to think about as a new sublime. If the traditional sublime is in deep space, then this is proposing that the contemporary sublime is in front of the picture plane, not beyond it. I continue to make these works because I feel this is a whole new spatial adventure” (Anish Kapoor quoted in ibid., p. 52). As an object of immense beauty and commanding authority, Untitled is a masterful encapsulation of Kapoor’s highly assured manipulation of spatial territory.
Originally published on Sotheby’s
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