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Monday, January 28, 2019

21st Century Architecture (part II)

Milwaukee Art Museum--weird for the sake of weirdness--a disturbing trend, especially with regard to art museums.
About three years ago I wrote regarding the incredible 21st-Century Architecture I could see rising now and just over the horizon. In rereading the first installment on the subject, it struck me that I may have slighted domestic architecture in favor of massive high-rise edifices. Moreover I seem to have been infatuated with some of the "weirder" manifestations of such works. More recently I wrote regarding the sprouting skyline of Doha, Qatar (most of which is definitely on the weird side). I can accept the fact that structures designed now and in the future will be significantly different from what we commonly see now; but all too often architects seem predisposed to be "different" for the sake of being different as might be noted in the new Milwaukee Art Museum (above). That I find indefensible except perhaps with regard to such designers/engineers as being artists with creative impulses tinkering in a billion-dollar art medium. Today I hope to steer clear of the "weird for the sake of weirdness" and to explore in greater depth a few of the more outstanding examples of domestic architecture (homes) being designed and built today.
A glimpse into the future (today).
Weird or not, all architecture has precedence and past influences, even the postmodern designs of our present era. It's not hard to notice both in the work of Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater (1935) and John Lautner's Chemosphere (1960). Both architects and their work are excellent role models in the area of domestic architecture (above). However an influence we may not bring to mind is that which many of us enjoyed in the brief Hanna-Barbera's TV cartoon series The Jetsons (below). It ran for just one season (September 1962 to March 1963), but the architectural influence of this futuristic counterpart to their much-more-successful Flintsones, seems to have had an inordinate impact of the impressionable young minds of Today's architects. Whether the creators foresaw global climate change and the resulting rise in sea level, or simply to facilitate their flying cars, in the Jetson's world, everything seems to have been built on stilts.

Funny looking, yes, but Hanna-Barbera provided a more accurate peek into the future of architecture than we realized
--then or now.
Before launching into three of the best examples of 21st-century domestic architecture, let me briefly highlight two of the better examples of large-scale works I came upon. They range from the simply eye-catching to the borderline weirdness mentioned earlier. The first, designed by the firm of Neutelings Riedijk, is the City of Antwerp (Belgium) Museum of Art (below) which seems to buck the trend toward creating art museums which compete in their design with the art they house. Opened in 2010, the museum is situated in the heart of the old harbor area, close to the city center. It is a 60 meters (197 feet) tall tower of stacked exhibition spaces. Each level is twisted 90 degrees to form a giant spiral. The glassed spaces become vertical galleries. Escalators guide the visitors to the top of the building in a journey through the history of Antwerp as seen in panoramas of the city. On the upper floor is a restaurant, conference room, and a sky deck. The tower is designed to form one continuous space for exhibitions and events.

21st-century museum architecture at its best--different without being weird.
A second example of what's happening today can be found in Montpelier, France. Designed by Nolas Lisne Associates of Paris, the multi-functional White Tree (below) is a 17-story mixed-use tower designed to accommodate residential units, office space, an art gallery, restaurant, and panoramic bar. The 10,000 square meter (108,000 square foot) structure seems to grow organically out of the ground, with a natural form that appears to have been sculpted over time. The scheme’s various branches also provide selected areas of shade for adjacent properties. Influenced by the city’s fondness for outdoor living, balconies gravitate toward the exterior, like leaves fanning out to absorb sunlight. A generous provision of vegetation sees hanging gardens, plants and trees positioned throughout the residential units, imagined as a vertical garden. The tower devises passive strategies throughout its design in order to ensure a comfortable and livable environment that feeds off locally available resources.

From afar, White Tree might seem pretty far up the "weirdness" scale, but up-close, being "different" has its practical advantages.
Presently under construction, as seen above in computer renderings, each of the high-rise’s residents can select a preferred floor plan from a list of possible layouts (below), encouraging ‘free choice architecture’ through a series of modular spaces.

The lower-level "branches" of the White Tree.
Though having the appearance of a manicured bush, White Tree is actually a multi-angled vertical tower with cantilevered balconies of various sizes.
On the domestic front, I came upon the Herrero House in Alella, Spain, near Barcelona (below). Minimalism is, admittedly, not a style everyone could live with. Its largely white expanses of unadorned walls and hard edges strike some as quite cold and dehumanizing. Others find the same features with their uncluttered simplicity a welcome relief from the maniacal complexities of modern life. Personally, I'd fall into the latter group. Herrero House is a luxury Mediterranean villa that has an unique combination of 20th-century design and 21st century technologies. At almost 500 square meters (5,400 square foot) in area spread over three floors, Herrero House boasts a technical basement, a living area on the ground level, and the sleeping areas upstairs. The use of newly developed insulating materials exponentially improves energy efficiency. Home automation can control the whole house through a Smartphone. Rainwater is used to irrigate the Mediterranean garden and fill the pool. The amazingly white infinity pool is linked with the house which allows changing the color of its waters. The garden area surrounding the house combines Mediterranean native species with a Japanese Zen spirit, balancing tradition and serenity in nature to create an ideal home environment.

I could learn to live with this, but I doubt if my wife could.
Gracing the English countryside is the Serenity Passive House by Baca Architects (below). Built at a cost of $11-million, this is a prime example that the cutting edge doesn't come cheap. Certified as a passive house, it sips energy like a fine Chardonnay. This means that it has good solar orientation, triple pane windows, little if no heat loss from thermal bridging, and lots of insulation. The house can't forgo all heating and cooling, though. It relies on two systems that are integrated to not only keep the house cozy, but efficiently heat the pool nestled in the middle of the courtyard. The first is a ground source heat pump which utilizes 490-foot deep wells--far beyond standard depths--for this technology. The heat pump uses the ground as a sort of thermal battery by dumping excess heat in the summer and retrieving it again in the winter. The system is expected to balances itself out through the year. Engineering aside, the interior is perhaps the most interesting aspect of the architecture with its sweeping spaces that connect at the garden courtyard. The centerpiece is a waterfall cascading from the roof into a pool. The house itself at some 16,000 square feet, may take some getting used to. The sumptuous curves and bulbous look are akin to a racing car sculpted to speed through the air. The house is similarly shaped to reach peak performance in its environment.

One-of-a-kind luxury and technology at a price.
(Too rich for my blood.)
And finally, the Japanese architecture firm, ARTechnic, has designed and completed this unusual-but-beautiful minimalist concrete ovoid home in Karuizawa, Japan. Built in two sections, around a fir tree, it is nestled in a forest and is as amazing inside as it is on the outside. The Shell House is a house remodeled with a combination of minimalisn and nature. With the profile of a shell and an aerial appearance of some alien spacecraft, the futuristic Shell House is a two-story, concrete abode comprising two tubes with oval sections, arranged around a fir tree. The floor is raised 1.4 meters (5 feet) from the ground, The architects intended to minimize time spent on maintaining the property by separating the house from its natural surroundings. "Being in sync with nature isn’t about yielding to nature, it’s about coexistence," explains Kotaro Ide of ARTechnic. The regions’ low temperatures and high humidity level makes for a harsh climate. As a result, many houses in the area that have taken on traditional structures are decaying. Consequently, a large numbers of villas have not been in use for many years allowing them to become dilapidated. Despite the general avoidance of concrete material in the region, its usage and the lifting structure have helped the villa protect itself from the humidity.

Curvilinear minimalism, a design inspired by a tree.
Leaving the boundary between human life and nature ambiguous is a Japanese virtue. Yet, this ideal can only be achieved through meticulous attention and care of the wilderness on a daily basis. This might be attainable at our homes, but isn’t a practical theory when applied to villas. If a visit to a vacation villa inevitably leads to hours and days of maintenance, why bother going? Having a type of living space that merges with nature can be appealing, but it seems natural to consider this option only when one is ready to devote a large amount of time solely on maintenance. Villas should not only be functional spaces for the weekend, but good for rest, leisure, and picturesque views that never become dull. In the style of many modern sculptures, Shell House aims to enhance the surrounding nature by incorporating it within the spatial structure. Let's hope this, not the Jetsons, is the 21st-century future of architecture.

Costs, aesthetics, engineering, lifestyles, and nature all play a role in the evolution of a 21st-century home design.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Climate Change Art

Waco (Texas) Friends of Peace/Climate art exhibit banner, 2018.
About 1988, our family visited the James Deering estate he called Vizcaya, situated on Biscayne Bay, in Miami. Located a few yards off shore behind the mansion is a stone breakwater known as Cleopatra's Barge (below). I recall that the steps and central section were roughly three feet above sea level. In 2015 when we again visited the estate, the steps and center deck were under about eight inches of water. Even allowing for a tidal range of as much as 2.5 feet (we visited about the same time of day both times) there was left little doubt in my mind that what I was seeing first hand was the sea level rise associated with what we're now calling climate change (as opposed to "global warming".) Until then this controversial phenomena was something I'd only read about. Today, the scientific data is indisputable. And the's pretty indisputable too...even in Waco, Texas (above).
Sea level rise in just 30 years. The water level was actually higher than seen above (several inches over the steps) when we last visited Vizcaya in 2015.
Though Waco, Texas, is a relatively small, local, art community, there is nothing small or local about climate change or its art. And just as the effects of climate change, now and in the future, are quite diverse, so too is the work artists from all over the world are now creating to attract attention to this looming disaster, as well as to enlighten and change public opinion on its significance. Sometimes the message is quite subtle and really quite beautiful, as in the CD album cover designed by Iago Pico & Michel Sult Condition for the Icelandic band, Deathwalking (below). The imagery evolves from hellish to heavenly, though a reversal of that transition might be considered more accurate.

Condition, Iago Pico and Michel Sult

American Gothic Underwater,
Though quite beautiful in its own way, there's nothing subtle about the image and messaging of American Gothic Underwater by Mandrak (right). Grant Wood is probably rolling over in his grave, but if art from the past serves any purpose at all, no higher calling could be imagined than keeping the world as we know it (and its art) high and dry. The artist here takes the familiar and (with a touch of humor) then attempts to shock the viewer by marrying it with the unfamiliar. The old farmer must be pretty good at holding his breath. Equally attractive, but from a left-brain statistical point of departure is the seven-piece watercolor series by Jill Pelto (below). Whereas other climate change artists rely on humor or an emotional awakening to bear their message, Jill presents graphic charts to support her remarkable images. Pelto holds two degrees from the University of Maine, one in earth science the other in studio art, thus allowing her to create paintings based on graphs of data on the environmental effects of climate change. Pelto’s paintings (below) are based on several different data sets that measure glacial melt, animal populations, and forest fires, among others. Each set focuses on the ways that climate change has affected these aspects of the environment.
The effects of climate change by the numbers.
When creating a piece, Pelto looks for something important that is happening but isn’t well-publicized--something people aren’t paying much attention to. Most of her data comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Climate Central and other researchers whose work she has studied. Pelto hopes that her pieces can work as a visual link to the data, grabbing the attention of people for whom those numbers aren’t enough. “As someone who’s interested in science, I’m intrigued by a graph in an article,” she said. “But I know the majority of people aren’t. They’re going to just skim over a graph. I think a much bigger percentage of people are attracted to the visuals of art.”

Climate Change art, Stephanie Granada
Climate change data has its problems. It's often seen as lofty and complicated, hard to digest, and even harder to conjure into feelings of urgency. But artists like Jill Pelto and Stephanie Granada (above) are stepping in to marry data with their crafts, bridging the gap between scientific information and human connection. Recognizing that people often act by heart rather than logic, these two artists aim to help viewers understand the data while developing an emotional attachment that convinces them to do something about it—now.

I Don't Believe in Global Warming, Banksy. Rhetoric versus reality.
Meanwhile, some artists, such as the famed New York graffiti painter, Banksy (above), have taken to street art to make their point. Rather than rely on graphic imagery, street art is all about placement in the (usually urban) environment. Though seeming to echo climate change deniers Banksy, in fact, pokes fun at their obstinance. Quite apart from statistics, how many floods, fires, super storms, and high tides will it take to shake loose such scientific ignorance? Ask those in North Carolina, Florida, or Paradise, California. Banksy's climate change art is often about as subtle as a bulldozer.

Street art from Uganda--nothing subtle, beautiful, statistical, or unemotional here.
Street art can be found on the bare walls of streets all over the would. With all the other problems Africa endures, and particularly the country of Uganda, it might surprise some to find that artists of this third-world country are so deeply involved and emotionally committed to art exposing climate change. Communicating climate change is complicated, and forecasting the impacts even more so. How do you communicate uncertainty? Using jargon and technical language often leaves audiences switched off. In 2012, the Kabarole Research and Resource Centre, along with private sector partners in Uganda, started to organize an Annual Street Art Festivals on Climate Change in the town of Fort-Portal, by profiling artists communicating about climate change. Participants take part in street debates broadcast live on radio, they watch films on climate change, and present musical and dramatic performances. The festivals have so far been quite successful. The events are interactive and fun, and participant numbers grew from 300 in 2012 to over 1,000 the following year.

It almost goes without saying, not all climate change artists paint. In fact some of the most effective works in this genre come from sculptors such as Spanish street artist Isaac Cordal. One of the best known of his cement sculpture installations is Waiting for Climate Change (below), created for the Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes, France. Designed for the moat of the château, the 14 floating sculptures move with the wind and the water currents. Wearing business suit, impassive and blasé about the coming cataclysm – they absently watch the water level rise. This fascinating, and increasingly popular street artist, calls his works “interventions.”
Waiting for Climate Change, Isaac Cordal, Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes, France.
Masterplan, Chad Wright
--sand castle art
Californian designer Chad Wright has made a sandcastle mold of a typical American house to recreate post-war suburbia on the beach (left). For this project he created a plastic mold that could be filled with sand and lifted off to reveal simplified L-shaped bungalow forms, complete with chimney breasts. Rows of these sand sculptures were constructed on a beach to mimic layouts of sprawling communities across the US. As the tide came in the sandcastles were slowly eroded by the waves, leaving them cracked, crumbling and unrecognizable as homes. Sometimes social and global issues are so pressing that they reflect in art of the times. A recent climate change cam-paign in Berlin by Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo was extremely creative and dark. It was an instal-lation art consisting of 1000 tiny ice sculptures of men sitting on the steps of Berlin Concert Hall (below). Though the original idea behind this installation art of melting men sculptures was to question the role of monuments in the cities, the work has a stronger impact as climate change art. Environmental activists could never put the message across more subtly and explicitly. The melting ice sculptures symbolize the possible impact melting of Arctic ice on the entire planet. It could trigger ultimate meltdown and disappearance of life on earth.

Melting Men, Nele Azevedo, Berlin Concert Hall.
Meanwhile in England, Eden TV, a new UK-based natural history TV channel, recently began broadcasting. To celebrate their launch, the network built a 16-foot-high sculpture of a mother polar bear and her cub stranded on an iceberg (below). Also meant to increase awareness about the plight of the polar bear and their dwindling habitat as a result of climate change, the sculpture was sent to float down the Thames river. The event took place on January 26, 2019, and started at Greenwich, South East London. traveling to the Tower Bridge and then to the House of Parliament. The 1.5-ton sculpture was created by a team of 15 artists, who worked for 2 months to build the 20-feet by 20-feet sculpture.

Climate change art floating down the Thames. No, it was not an ice sculpture.
Quite apart from the work of painters and sculptors, perhaps the most influential climate change art comes from the pens and brushes of political cartoonists such as Horsey and Feggo (below). Theirs is often in the form of dark humor--clever and thought-provoking, but seldom funny. Frequently such artists can get away with saying things in a cartoon modality writers and painters art reluctant to render (for various reasons). I could do an entire discourse on such art and the men and women who create it but I'm already running long here. So finally, to add insult to injury, I've included my own entry into the flood and firestorm of such art (bottom).

These were two of the milder examples of the social and political brands of climate change cartoons.

Copyright, Jim Lane
"It's a hoax, I tell you. It's all a HOAX!"


Monday, January 14, 2019

Art for a Cause

The work of New York artist, Keith Haring. Can you decipher his imagery to detect the causes he promoted?
Not necessarily.
As a writer, virtually every word I produce has as its ultimate goal to inform the reader and perhaps changed his or her perceptions of, in my case, art. That's likely true of every writer, even those producing fiction, as we expose others to new ways of thinking and try to influence what they think as well. Although writing is a demanding skill, it in no way matches the skill set needed to accomplish similar results using drawn or painted images. I've frequently noted that such endeavors have long since been surpassed by media much more efficient in that realm--motion pictures, TV, and other forms of digital imaging. In the past, painting was so laborious and time-consuming that any attempt to influence how people thought; what they thought; and how they believed took second place behind simply decorating walls and entertaining art buyers. Only religious works made much of any impact on the causes artists and their clients sought to change.

Haring art sells for around $500,000 to $1 million per painting. An AIDS victim, Haring died in 1990.
Does ambiguous imagery
help or hurt the cause?
If the old, trite expression, "a picture is worth a thousand words" is still valid, then it's also safe to say that producing really effective imagery of equal impact is likewise a thousand times more difficult. When artist have a visual message they wish to render in promoting a cause, their efforts fall into three categories, (1) the Anti-cause, hoping to stop some present day social activity they find abhorrent. (2) Pro-cause, seeking to en-courage some positive human endeavor not cur-rently common, or (3) maintaining some current social activity they find valuable for our well-being. Perhaps one of the most prolific artists in this regard was the American painter, Keith Haring. Despite the simplicity of his images (top) his iconic figures nonetheless caused people to "think," if for no other reason than to figure out what he was trying to say--a simple style with difficult mes-sages. His work continues to influence painters with a message from fifth graders (right) to pro-fessional illustrators today, more than a quarter-century after his death.

Even with a healthy dose of dry humor, the artist's cause is likely to offend those at whom the message is aimed.
Ricardo Levins Morales doesn't think of himself as an artist so much as he does a healer. He considers his work to be "medicinal," full of nutrients and antibodies. For more than four decades, Morales has produced art that speaks to the environment, workers' rights and racial equity (below). David Nicholson, executive director of Headwaters Foundation for Justice, said, "It's hard to overstate the importance of Morales' work. There's a reason Martin Luther King said "I have a dream" and not "I have a plan," he said. "The importance of art in social justice movements is that it captures people's imagination. His images invoke a sense of what's possible and help to represent the struggles that people are in." Morales' work is haunting, moving, inspiring images, much of which features people of color. In one poster, a black schoolteacher writes, "We Can Do It." on a chalkboard (below). Many posters include inspirational quotes. Morales adds, "For some communities, the thing that they've forgotten is that they're beautiful and they're capable. Just that very simple, basic thing. So I hold up a mirror that filters out all the toxic messages, and they see that in my art, and I think that's what draws people in. People more than anything hunger to be seen and recognized."

Morales was born into an activist farming family in Puerto Rico. He later moved to Minneapolis and shortly thereafter co-founded the Northland Poster Collective.
Under most circumstances and by most definitions, the artist who goes by the name, Hari, would probably be considered an amateur. Like most artists, Hari’s objective is to create a works that appeal to art lovers and buyers. An ongoing show (below) of paintings by Hari aspires to create abundant funds which will be donated for supporting the infrastructure and basic amenities for a visually impaired school. Thus Hari, rather than painting to promote a cause does so simply to help finance the cause in which he so desperately believes. The themes of his mostly figurative paintings combine myriad images picked up from nature, surroundings, mythological tales, human figures, and many more. He prefers to experiment and render in varied styles and not stick to a single genre. Hari explains, “More than establishing any personal connotation, my objective is to create a work that appeals to the art lovers and buyers and contributes to increase the fund accumulation. So I try my best to create multiple styles, subjects and compositions.”

Hari at a recent charity display of his work.
Uniting the colonies.
Down through the centuries as artists with strong messages promoting causes, motifs have changed but motives seldom do. Sometimes the causes are relatively unimportant (even silly), taken in their historic context, much like the thought-provoking visual editorial involving the Tango (below). At other times, the artist with a cause has created such powerful images as the "Join or Die" broadside from the American Revolution era, which seems akin to what we think of as political cartoons today. Whether we agree or disagree with the cartoon's artist, these works, mostly in protest, present important messages by people who care what we think as they try to change or reinforce social and political attitudes.

It takes two to Tango--pro and con.
As seen in the "Join or Die" woodcut, very often artists have espoused revolutionary causes, usually when their military outcomes are unknown. Perhaps one of the greatest revolutions in the history of mankind had little to do with armies and warfare. Today, we refer to it as the Protestant Revolution, and the name is well chosen. Although Martin Luther publicly burned Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull in 1520, Karl Aspelin's early 20th century painting (below) not only recorded protest history but aroused cries of protest from Catholics some four-hundred years after the fact. We have to wonder if that was the artist's "cause." or simply the unanticipated consequences.

Martin Luther Public Burning Pope Leo X’s Papal Bull, 1520, Karl Aspelin.
As the artist paints in protest a cause, whether positive, negative, or neutral, there always runs the risk of being sublimated by the sheer beauty of the artwork. That would seems to be the case with Padmaja M's Laxmi Narayana (below, left) or the "beastly" work of Phillip Danner (below, right). Together they recall the old question: "Which is more important, the message or the medium?"

The work of Padmaja M and Phillip Danner.

Photos have largely replaced illustrations
in today's messaging. Most of us know a
lot about his cause.


Monday, January 7, 2019

Anish Kapoor

The Spire, 2004, Anish Kapoor
Not too long ago a reader sent me an e-mail discussing one of my posts at which time he asked, how and where I came up with the broad variety of content areas he found so interesting. There is, of course, no single answer to that. Often they come from a news item I come across on the Internet. At other times they simply reflect some artist or art interest I find fascinating myself and wish to probe deeper, hoping those reading my words will enjoy the effort. In the case of Anish Kapoor, my wife, who has very little interest in art, brought a small news article to my attention. I'm ashamed to admit that the name didn't immediately "ring a bell," though it should have. While in Chicago a few years ago I almost saw (experienced would be a better word) his most famous work. I had, in fact written about the British sculptor's Cloud Gate (below, a.k.a. the "bean") located in that city's Millennial Park. I say I almost saw it inasmuch as the park and Kapoor's massive, polished mass is right next door to the Art Institute of Chicago where I spent an entire day. Had I known the art landmark was so nearby, I would definitely have found the time to pay my respects.
Cloud Gate, 2006, Anish Kapoor, the centerpiece of Millennium Park, Chicago.

The news item that caught my wife's eye involved an unfortunate mishap in which an elderly man accidentally fell into one of Kapoor's site specific "sculptures" titled Bottomless. It wasn't, of course, only some eight feet deep with the sides painted black to give the appearance of a bottomless abyss. The Italian man in his 60's was slightly injured from the mishap. Bottomless (left) is a part of Kapoor series called Descent into Limbo displayed at the Serralves Museum in Porto, Portugal. The unfortunate art lover has since been released from the hospital.

Kapoor and curator Suzanne Cotter stand next to Descent into Limbo (1992) at the Serralves museum.

Along the same line as his earlier Bottomless, Anish Kapoor’s endlessly spinning whirlpool titled Descension (below) has descended on Brooklyn, NY, located at pier 1 in Brooklyn Bridge Park. The continuously spiraling funnel of water penetrates the earth in a powerful rush of ceaseless motion, drawing viewers into its mystifying and mesmerizing abyss. It turns an ordinary material (water) into a strangely behaving substance, disturbing the familiar notions of our world. The 26-foot in diameter installation creates a striking jux-taposition to the adjacent East River as it continues Kapoor’s long-standing interest in the destabilization of the physical world. The spiraling whirlpool is treated with an all-natural black dye, creating a seemingly endless hole, into which visitors are invited to carefully peer (this one has a railing).
Brooklyn's Descension follows an earlier display as a smaller, interior work at India's Kochi-Muziris Biennale.
Anish Kapoor is a leading contemporary British-Indian artist working in large-scale abstract public sculpture. Throughout his career, Kapoor has worked on a variety of scales and with diverse materials—mirrors, stone, wax, and PVC—exploring both biomorphic and geometric forms with a particular interest in negative space. Born in 1954 in Bombay, India, Kapoor moved to London in the late 1970s, studying at both the Hornsey College of Art and Chelsea College of Arts. He first gained critical recognition for his work in the 1980s, with his metaphysical site-specific pieces in which he manipulated form and the perception of space. Kapoor was awarded the Turner Prize in 1991.
1000 Names, 1979-80, Anish Kapoor

Tall Tree and the Eye, 2009,
Anish Kapoor, Royal Academy.
One of Kapoor's favorite work is 1000 Names (above), dating from 1979–80. Being from India, Kapoor relates emotionally to the pieces of the work, which are made in pigments with extraordinarily exotic shapes. They are a source of wonder, luscious, beautiful, delicious and very sensual. Those early works were unlike anything ever seen. However, quite apart from his work with pigments, holes, and other disquieting shapes and media, Kapoor is undoubtedly best knows for his "shiny stuff" such his Spire (top) or his Tall Tree and the Eye, seen at right when displayed in Paris in 2009. Kapoor is intrigued by the empty spaces between and within the shapes he has made, and by the endless, repeating "fractal images" reflected on their polished surfaces. Turning the World Upside Down (below) dating from 1996 is typical of Kapoor's "spacey" work.

Turning the World Upside Down, 1996, Anish Kapoor.
For the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Kapoor created the ArcleorMittal Orbit (below), now the UK's tallest sculpture. Standing 114.5 meters tall, the sculpture was erected at the cost of a whopping £22.7 million. Designed by Kapoor and structural designer Cecil Balmond, the work is a tangled steel lattice incorporating the five Olympic rings. Sponsors hope the tower will attract one million visitors a year to Stratford's Olympic Park. The ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture, is 22 meters taller than the Statue of Liberty, and has two observation floors with a spiral staircase consisting of 455 steps. The iconic attraction hopes visitors will be attracted by the architectural design and detailed integration; enough to want to take the elevator to the top and then maybe walk down the spiral staircase. Kapoor's enormous sculpture easily dwarfs the aspirations of Gustave Eiffel.

Anish Kapoor with a scale model of his ArcelorMittal Orbit.
Kapoor’s newer work includes his first paintings in years, though they stretch the description of a painting somewhat. There's paint, of course, but also silicon, and white resin applied deep and wide on canvas. Some of the paintings project as much as two feet from the gallery wall. These creations hang precariously, their apparent weight seemingly defying gravity itself. The initial impression is, as others have noted, that of a three-dimensional Francis Bacon, though Kapoor's works have a more savage quality. It’s pretty hard not to think of slabs of meat, with the sinews, bone, gore and eviscerated flesh both shocking yet, in the painting's hidden depths, truly mesmerizing. Are they his reflection on a particularly barbaric moment in our contemporary history? The artist contends, "I'm not going to exclude it. But I’m not going illustrate it either. I’m not a journalist. I don’t want to have anything to say, it just gets in the way. I think the journey of an artist is a journey of discovery and some engagements with paint, with the nature of material, and bodily things."

Kapoor views an artist’s job as going into the studio saying, "I don’t know what to do, I’m lost."

I don't know what it is, but I'd certainly hate to meet
up with it in a dark alley.
(Actually, it's called Trumpet.)