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Past, Present, Future
Anish Kapoor at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston

This coming fall, Anish Kapoor will produce a commissioned piece for the Deutsche Guggenheim. The twenty-two-ton steel sculpture will fill almost the entire room of the Berlin exhibition hall. But anyone interested in gaining an impression of the sculptor's unmistakable works sooner should travel to Boston, where the Institute of Contemporary Art is currently showing fourteen of his monumental sculptures. "Past, Present, Future," the first American show of Kapoor's work since 15 years, is sponsored by Deutsche Bank.

Anish Kapoor, Past, Present, Future, 2006,
Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery,
Foto: John Kennard

A hemisphere of red wax juts up before the front wall of the spacious gallery. Like a gigantic windshield wiper moving back and forth in slow motion, a grey scraper brings the tough mass back into shape. Blood red wax sprays onto the flawless white wall. Past, Present, Future, made in 2006, is one of the highlights of the show at the ICA in Boston. The sculpture seems like a precursor to Svayambh, a work that Anish Kapoor made in 2007 for his Munich show, where a huge red block moved slowly through the rooms of the Haus der Kunst. These are works that are as fascinating as they are disturbing, that resist all unequivocal interpretation. While the room-sized object in Munich evokes apocalyptic scenes, the hemisphere in Boston reminds one of the birth of a planet.

Anish Kapoor, Ausstellungsansicht Past, Present, Future, ICA Boston,
Foto: John Kennard

On the other hand, S-Curve (2006) has a very different effect. The work is a long curved wall of polished stainless steel in the center of the exhibition space. When visitors pass by the concave part of the double curve, the floor seems to tilt up before the viewer to devour his distorted reflection, while at least one of the concave areas simply reflects the surroundings in diminished form.

Anish Kapoor, S-Curve, 2006,
Courtesy Regen Projects, Los Angeles.
Foto: Joshua White, Los Angeles

The sculpture's surface recalls important works of Kapoor's such as Cloud Gate (1999-2006) at the Millennium Park in Chicago or Turning the World Upside Down III (1996) in the lobby of Deutsche Bank London, where the reflective surfaces of the work connect with its technoid organic forms. All three works explore the dematerialization of sculpture.

"I like the idea that all material has a kind of immaterial present," explains Anish Kapoor on the occasion of the show at the ICA in Boston. "I'm interested in the way art and the artist can sidestep the real and make it more real," he said. "It's real but not real." And indeed, whether it’s his monumental metal pieces or his fragile pigment sculptures, his objects always possess a puzzling ambiguity, seem as though they came from another world. Such as the works of the series 1000 Names (1979-80), a play upon the many names for the various different Hindu gods, which he began after a trip to his native country India. Kapoor was born in Mumbai in 1954 and resettled in London in 1973. The series consists of geometric and organic forms that he covered in intensely brilliant powdered pigment that also separates from the surface and surrounds the works like a kind of aura of color.

Anish Kapoor, Marsupial, 2006,
Courtesy of the artist and Lisson Gallery,
Foto: John Kennard

Kapoor's skillful treatment of space and color finds expression in the highly seductive piece My Body Your Body from 1993. Seen at a distance, it seems like a monochromatic painting in brilliant blue. When the viewer slowly approaches the piece, he realizes that what initially resembled a dark spot is actually a hollow area. And when standing directly in front of the blue rectangle, he realizes that the space is continued far into the wall: a whirl of color that draws him deep into the hyper-aesthetic, cryptic cosmos of Anish Kapoor.

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