If there is one word that is constantly being associated with the work of sculptor Anish Kapoor it is size. His work is classified as being somewhere in between sculptural and architectural due to the monumental scale of many of his pieces. While there is no doubt that the majority of Kapoor’s pieces definitely are gigantic, it is the unity that he creates through the clean and simplified use of space, light, color and mass that sets him apart.
Kapoor emerged onto the British art scene during the early 1980’s, where he was celebrated for his mostly monochromatic, brightly colored, and simple curving forms. Many of his early pieces were very organic shapes made from Styrofoam or fiberglass and covered in a vibrant pigment that was, for the most part, a primary or secondary color. He would also extend the color of the pigment past the base of the sculpture and onto the ground surrounding the piece. This technique bridged the gap between sculpture and reality giving his work a sense that it was growing from the ground like some sort of rock formation. The use of such high chroma colors in Kapoor’s art can be traced back to his upbringing in India, where color, and more specifically, bright, high-intensity colors, are a very significant part of the culture.
Although the bright colors that dominated Kapoor’s early works can still be seen in his more current pieces, it is apparent that in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s his focus turned to working with stone. One element that is apparent in all of Kapoor’s work is his very deliberate attention to space. Through working with stone, creating pieces with deep dark holes of various sizes, he began to explore the infinite possibilities of positive and negative space. With what started as holes in the sides or top of large chunks of stone, evolved into holes in the ground, on the wall and on the ceiling. This focus of emptiness and darkness is still very prevalent in his work today. He went on to invert these holes into bumps and spires playing with the exact opposite of what he had been focusing on with holes and voids. This theme of duality fascinated Kapoor, whether light and dark, good and evil, or man and woman this idea of opposites was a motivation for him. Although Kapoor makes his pieces for nobody other than himself, he has always been very concerned with the viewer and how the perceive it.
In the mid 1990’s Kapoor began to experiment with pieces that were made entirely out of metal. He still works with color but typically he limits himself to blue or red due to their simplicity, yet complimented by the complexity of their perception by the viewer. It seems he found his ideal media in highly polished, mirror-like stainless steel. Now, like before, he could work with the positive and negative space of holes and voids and the light and dark that they created, but with stainless steel there was the addition of actual reflections and significant amounts of reflected light in his sculptures.
The many interesting properties of polished stainless steel can be appreciated in his most famous piece, Cloud Gate, 2004 which is in AT&T Plaza in Millennium Park in downtown Chicago, Illinois. The piece weighs a behemoth 100 tons, measures an enormous 33’ x 66’ x 42’ and seamlessly reflects the city’s skyline. People travel from all over the world to witness the sheer magnitude of a sculpture with so much mass. With pieces as large as Cloud Gate, and some even larger it is understandable why Kapoor has a reputation for working in monumental scale. The interesting thing is most of his other pieces are just as breathtaking but are human scale or smaller, due to his appropriate use of space, light, color and mass.
Anish Kapoor Official Website. [Online] 11 March 2009. http://www.anishkapoor.com/index.htm
Bhabha, Homi K. Anish Kapoor: University of California Press, 1998.
Celant, Germano. Anish Kapoor: Edizioni Charta, 1998.
Kapoor, Anish. Taratantara: Actar, 2000.