Anish Kapoor in Venice
by Liviana Martin
The maze that is Venice streets has bewitched one of the most influential artists of our time, who has chosen in this lagoon-like city a historic 18th century building as the seat of his Foundation.
Anish Kapoor, born in Mumbai in 1954, moved to London in the 1970s, where he lives and works. Famous for his powerful installations (Cloud Gate or The Bean of Chicago, Marsyas at the Tate Modern in London, to name only the most iconic), in Venice he was celebrated with a great retrospective, at the Accademia Galleries and at Palazzo Manfrin during the 59th Biennale.
The choice of locations is not accidental: the Galleries, which constitute the world’s most important collection of Venetian painting from the 14th – 18th centuries have also had a contemporary art program for years, in which Kapoor’s exhibition is being held. Palazzo Manfrin was purchased by the artist as the ideal place for the Anish Kapoor Foundation: once renovated, this 18th century building will become a laboratory for contemporary art.
Observing his works the viewer becomes disoriented. The mirrored surfaces, where sky and earth merge, present us with an inverted world. High and low swap roles; the spectator enters the work together with the surrounding environment.
In his large canvases, the paint clumps together, as if it were organic; it stretches and folds up, forming depressions or dispersing into very small coloured particles.
Shooting in the corner is an installation that occupies two rooms, scattered with blood-red wax projectiles fired from a cannon. Red is the predominant colour here, a symbol of vital energy and flowing blood. It is said that as a teenager he suffered a nervous breakdown: a relative had advised his mother to put red soil underneath his bed. After healing, in memory of this episode, the red pigment became a fetish colour for the artist, a symbol of life but also of injury and death.
The artist’s other favourite colour is black. He purchased the patent to obtain absolute black, a nanotechnological acrylic paint capable of absorbing 99.9% of natural light and of making objects disappear. It is Kapoor black; the paint is toxic and must be worked with using special precautions. Enclosed in the display cases, objects with a flat geometric shape transform to cones, pyramids, and protuberances after a minimum displacement, changes we would never have seen when standing in front of them. It is certainly not a game, of illusions, but a way to transcend the human dimension, to go beyond matter, beyond the limit between visible and invisible. Is it the cosmic black hole? The visitor gets an impression of an absence, of a void or a chasm that swallows up reality; a sense of death. Kapoor says, “Venice is like Varanasi, where dying is a sacred privilege.”
Instead, other works are permeated by a generative energy, such as the large installation Pregnant White Within Me, where the white of a huge perfect egg transforms, viewed from the side, into a prominent belly. It is the life full of promises, female fertility, that the artist seems to celebrate. In an interview, he says that creating artwork is not like procreating, which is why he envies maternity as one of the most powerful acts of humanity.
Life and death are also present in the second exhibition space, the beautiful Manfrin Palace. In the entrance hall, there is a site-specific work, Mount Moriah at the Gate of the Ghetto (the Jewish ghetto is on the other side of the canal). It displays a mountain of solidified lava that pierces the ceiling. A volcano from which a dripping mass of silicone and paint emerges in a vital explosion, the mystery of matter that explodes from the depths of the earth.
All the rooms converge in the 18th century music room: the central installation, Simphony For A Beloved Sun, is a gigantic sun that sets or rises,on a mass of red wax, once again the primordial substance of life and death.
“What was wild on this earth we have banished, transforming everything into a beautiful garden”, says Kapoor . His warrior spirit, his creativity, as well as his amazing technical expertise make this exhibition one of the most beautiful exhibitions outside the Biennale in Venice
Gallerie dell’Accademia & Palazzo Manfrin 20/04 2022 to 9/10/2022, Tickets 12 euro.