Much of the startling beauty of the present work is inherent in its very material. The incandescent filaments of the alabaster proliferate across the surface of Untitled, building a network of glowing veins that lend the sculpture an otherworldly ethereal presence. As the eye glides over the sleek frontal surface of the present work, the aperture at its nucleus lures us into its simultaneously beguiling and foreboding core, enticed by the fiery amber light entering through the regions of thinned stone to the rear. Meanwhile, its sides and back evoke a hulking relic of ages past—a contrast that tantalizes our senses and encourages 360-degree circumnavigation.
With Untitled, Kapoor referenced a venerable tradition of stone carving dating back thousands of years which reached a pinnacle of expression during the Renaissance and Baroque periods with the marvelously worked marble sculptures of Michelangelo and Bernini. Kapoor’s investigation of stone had begun in 1987, nearly twenty years before the execution of Untitled. Having created a series of works in which he covered geometrically shaped forms in pigment, the artist decided to embark on the exploration of this new material, with which he was able to investigate the possibilities of creating positive and negative space. It was precisely this new medium that enabled Kapoor to discover what would come to be the hallmark of his work; the representation of the void. Carving holes out of different types of stone at first, Kapoor soon became interested with the possibilities the material gave him to create a sense of depth and emptiness, of infinite space that would draw the viewer into his works and challenge their own position in space and in front of the sculptures. Of these cavities, Dr. David Anfam has written that “rather than give his stones a countenance, Kapoor inscribes upon them the sign of emptiness: an excavated core that can be inky black…faintly polished…night-sky indigo…more illuminated…or raised to the pitch of a circular excavation glowing like a cryptic orb.” (Dr. David Anfam, Anish Kapoor, London, 2009, p. 100)
Captivatingly serene, Untitled beckons peaceful contemplation and thought. The viewer is invited to circle the sculpture, their eyes resting upon each detail of the surface, noticing the changes in the grain, the nuances in its color and the veins in its core. In its naturalistic celebration of organic material, gathered from the Earth’s surface, Untitled invites associations with the passing of geological eons and the corresponding passage of time and historical development. Kapoor commented on this crucial aspect of his work: “There is a history in the stone and through this simple device of excavating the stone it’s just as if a whole narrative sequence is suddenly there.” (the artist cited in Germano Celant, Anish Kapoor, London, 1996, p. 27) The use of stone, as Dr. Anfam has further described, “meshes two more of Kapoor’s idées fixes: time and place. He has cited a ‘sense of geology’ in his work and others suggest his stone communicates a supra-human timescale.” (Anfam, Op. Cit., p. 102) Rightly so, Untitled exquisitely bears testament to the passage of time; formed over hundreds of years, alabaster was widely used in Ancient Egypt for sacred and sepulchral objects, and later its translucent quality and malleability popularized it during the 14th and 15th Centuries as a material for effigies, ornamental objects, and even on windows in churches and cathedrals across Europe. Untitled, too, attests to its creative process; the rugged, unpolished surface of the ‘untouched’ mineral reminds us of the quarries it comes from – Kapoor conscientiously sourced each alabaster block for the series in several excavation sites around Volterra. On the other hand, the highly polished cavity prompts thoughts about artistic intervention and anticipates Kapoor’s reflective mirrored surfaces of later years. The dichotomy created by these seemingly oppositional qualities of Untitled lies nonetheless at the heart of the artist’s practice.
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