Installation view of “Anish Kapoor: Past, Present, Future.” (Credit: John Kennard/ICABoston)
— by Natalia Mackenzie
The giant elevator in Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art opened and I faced the 16-inch long, S-shaped wall mirror that introduced me to the Anish Kapoor experience. The image of myself that Kapoor offered as I entered the exhibition struck me: Short legs, short torso and one big head. I found my body’s boundaries and shapes now unfamiliar, and I guess, neither were those of the other visitors, who stared at their deformed images next to me. Without realizing it, Kapoor was slowly immersing us into his ludic environment of unfamiliar spaces.
Born in 1954 to an Iraqi-Jewish mother and a Hindu father, Kapoor is a mixture of both Western and Eastern cultures. He explores what he believes is the seduction of distorting familiar spaces and invites the viewer to be part of the art scene. With a total of 14 sculptures, the exhibition “Anish Kapoor: Past, Present, Future” gave me a perfect glimpse of the twisted world Kapoor builds over his art pieces.
As I walked through the room, passing in front of thousands of tiny, hexagonal mirrors resembling a fly eye, a huge, red, waxed planet caught my attention. It was smashed against the wall as if the artist felt that there was not enough space in the room to fit it all. More that just playing with speculations about where the space begins and where it ends, Kapoor believes space can be an object by itself.
Looking from a distance, his piece My Body, Your Body, a dark blue rectangle of 6-feet tall and 3-feet long, appeared as a simple flat piece hanging on the wall. But as one gets closer, the blue plane becomes a hollowed, deep structure. The effect is so unbelievable that the guards had a hard time keeping everybody away from sticking their hands into the piece. But that was not all. Once my perception was stable enough, an inner cavity in the center of the rectangle became evident. Suddenly, I felt like I was diving into a blue body through an endoscope, and had made it halfway down to some kind of cave. My feeling made total sense when considering that Kapoor is obsessed with cavities and protrusions that evoke our own mysterious body parts.
And when I was dizzy enough and thought that I had seen it all, I came across one of that exhibit’s most disturbing illusions. As if showing off Kapoor’s need of understanding creation, When I Am Pregnant, made in 1992 with fiberglass and paint, emerged from the white flat wall. Easily unnoticed when standing in front of it, the round, pregnant, belly-like structure that protrudes from the wall, strikes you with its perfect silhouette.
Kapoor’s simple, hidden shapes easily provoked and unleashed my curiosity. I hoped one day I could come across one of those giant reflecting structures that distorted the image of the Rockefeller center or the Chicago Skyline. I left the museum thinking it is no wonder that Kapoor won the prestigious Turner Prize and is considered one of the world’s most influential sculptors. I think Nicholas Baume, chief curator of the ICA summarizes best my opinion of the exhibition in his quote: “Kapoor’s work demands to be experienced.”