Article by Andrea Ongaro in Berlin; Tuesday, May 28, 2013
The Martin Gropius Bau is presenting a show that is sure to be the event of the year in Berlin. A great amount of energy and means has been deployed for an exhibition that can be seen only in Berlin–a show that was conceived here, specifically to be realized here. Anish Kapoor is exhibiting a series of works that occupy the entire ground floor of the Martin Gropius Bau, including the atrium, and the show covers a great deal of his multi-faceted oeuvre. Sir Norman Rosenthal, the curator of the exhibition, affirmed that it has been an honour to organize the show, more than twenty years after his first collaboration with the Martin Gropius Bau when he worked on Joseph Beuys’ Zeitgeist in 1982. Seventy works of the artist will be presented, including a wide survey of Kapoor’s abstract poetic work from 1988 to the present day.
In Kapoor’s work the boundaries between sculpture and painting are put under constant pressure, his art become a synthesis of them while blurring their differences. A fundamental element of his work is the aesthetic perception of the form married with the inherent symbolic power of colour, through an extensive and varied use of countless materials. Thus his sculptures achieve self-evident formal meanings, but in a personal and almost delicate way. The exhibition Kapoor in Berlin is an important knot in the evolution of a body of work built over a period of more than three decades and represents an important stage in his career. Walking through the rooms we become familiarised with the dualities of pure and messy, smooth and rough, void and dense, that Kapoor expertly crystallizes.
As soon as we enter the atrium we find the large-scale work Symphony for a Beloved Sun, one of Kapoor’s most recent works. We are welcomed into a theatrical and sculptural environment, an unusually clean industrial site. This work finds its inspiration in the constructivist path of El Lissitzky, who was in turn inspired by Malevich’s Victory over the Sun, to create a lithographic series in the 1920s. The sun, red as blood, stands out against the bottom colonnade of the atrium and dominates as a deity overlooking the underlying stage, where piles of red wax fall and die. Large black frames with conveyor belts transport powerful bricks of wax that, once they reach the top, are ready to fall noisily, in an otherwise silent room. This perpetual performance arouses conflicting feelings: astonishment, curiosity, impatience, cruelty and in the end melancholy and disillusionment, perhaps even compassion.
Kapoor’s creations are made of natural and artificial materials. In the late 1980s he worked with stone, then plastic, synthetic resin, earth, steel and other metals, concrete, wood and wax. His concave and convex mirrors invite visitors to experiment with self-perception and deformation. The mirrors achieve astonishing effects that play with our sense of logic and force our eyes into incongruous labour. The parabolas especially invite us to get near, almost to enter, and to explode our own image, or at least the image we have of ourselves. In the rooms that host the resin sculptures, our noses becomes similarly involved–a strong artificial smell pervades the ambience of the room. Every single room is a very different world populated by Kapoor’s creations, displaying his ability to communicate at many levels with a range of materials.
Going through the pieces on display is a joyful dismay. The most intriguing character of Kapoor’s work is that it is reminiscent of so many great sculptors throughout the history of art, yet it’s impossible to find an explicit reference. His art includes everything, but at the same time nothing. Walking amongst his sculptures, it’s easy to recognize hints of Rodin, Brancusi, Fontana or Serra, but he digests history to produce something new and actual, in one word: Art. The constant rhythm of Shooting in the Corner, a canon that periodically shoots blocks of wax into the corner of a contained white-room, reminds us that this event is a shot in time, something that is singular and special and should not be missed.