Blackpaint 173

Guggenheim Bilbao (cont.)

Anish Kapoor

This is the exhibition that was on at the Royal Academy earlier this year.  Luckily, I missed it then; in the past, I’ve arrived at the Gug to find the main show is one I saw in London a few months earlier (for example Juan Munoz, a year or two ago).

In the first room, moulded piles/shapes of red and yellow pigments, like novelty blancmanges; a spiky one, one like a cartoon hero cape with an invisible Manga figure inside.  Must be sprayed with some sort of fixative.

Room Two has, set in the walls, giant pads like Ipod earphones, deep blue and concave.

In Room Three, mounds, columns, stacks, piles of cement turds, worms, sausages, mince, snake-like plaits; one like little figures boiling over in a sort of Apocalypse, vaguely like something done by the Chapman brothers.

Room Four: Huge distorting mirrors in various shapes, previously sited on the Sussex Downs.  Here, they were rather disappointing, in that you had to stand very close to them to see your distorted image, which tended to dismemberment, rather than the comic distortion of a fairground show.  Again, novelty.

Room Five: a whole room, empty, with one wall containing a recess painted yellow, giving a trompe-l’oeil effect of a mesh over a huge loudspeaker.

The next room contained the first of the red wax items, an enormous mechanical scraper rather like a stylus arm on an old record player, creating a flat, red wax disc by revolving and carving very s-l-o-w-l-y, like the Millennium Eye.  A rampart of red wax built up around the edge.

Finally, the famous gun.  Aimed at a high, white wall, firing red wax in cylindrical drums, presumably by compressed air.  Wall already covered with dried blood-red splotches, resembling magnified Twombly marks.  Gun is fired every 20 mins or so by a tall, overalled, po-faced operative, who loads the piece in a series of separate actions (fetching the drum from the stack, inserting wax plug in breech, winding barrel up, etc.), as if following orders inaudible to the rest of us.  There is then a wait of a few minutes for what? the compression to build, or the tension?  I suspect the latter.  Suddenly, as if on a signal, he fires, the wax splats against the wall, chunks drop or slide down.  Applause from the audience, which is ignored by the gunman, who marches off.  It’s a circus act – novelty and scale again, two main ingredients of Kapoor’s art.

I needed to find the toilets straight after, and I attribute this at least partly to Kapoor’s work – the cement turds, the big wax splotches, the build- up of compression and tension, cathartic release…  There were photographs, models and drawings of  other Kapoor  projects, not all realised, and more turd shapes, this time in chrome, were in evidence in these.   The most intriguing of these projects, I think called “Dante”, was a design for a sort of double belled trumpet-shaped tunnel, to have been excavated in the Downs, the bells forming entry and exit.

I realise now that the “train” was missing (in London, this passed through the gallery regularly, shaving the red wax blocks between which it passed); maybe the “record player” substituted for it.  All in all, I see Kapoor as a sort of assembler and ringmaster of novelties, a circus of giant amusements.  I think the stagey aspects of the whole  affair subvert the deeper significances some commentators seek to read into, for instance, the blood-red wax.

Another old one…

Red Desert by Blackpaint


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