In game four of the NBA Finals, Lebron James reminded us that sometimes the planet's best talent can fade on the big stage. Last week when the 54th Venice Biennale kicked off, Anish Kapoor, one of the leading figures of the international art scene today was set to hold court at Venice's Basilica of San Giorgio Maggiore in one the Biennale's most vaunted collateral events. Kapoor was presenting Ascension, a site-specific installation in which a column of white smoke rises from a circular base placed at the intersection of the transept and the nave of the magnificent church (video posted after jump).
Instead, Kapoor's installation sputtered, causing some critics to sound like Charles Barkley bashing Lebron and the Heat after their recent loss to the Mavs. One wag likened Kapoor's Ascension, to a "wisp of steam escaping from a pot of pasta," while yet another called it a downright "flop". No doubt feeling some Lebronish heat himself, Kapoor had the installation shut down and went back to the drawing board to improve his game.
By the middle of this week, the artist was back on track wowing crowds says Miami's Ruben Millares who, along with Antonia Wright, is sending Cultist their views and opinions on this edition of the Biennale.
Kapoor's pieces typically reflect a synthesis of materiality and spirituality, object and architecture. Sculptures with an open character, they set up a dialogue between full and empty, external and internal, concave and convex, tension and equilibrium, presence and absence. Emptiness as a metaphor of creation acquires a fundamental role in his oeuvre.
"In my work, what is and what seems to be often become blurred," explains Kapoor. "In Ascension, for example, what interests me is the idea of immateriality becoming an object, which is exactly what happens in Ascension: the smoke becomes a column. Also present in this work is the idea of Moses following a column of smoke, a column of light, in the desert."
Millares, who experienced Kapoor's piece this past Tuesday while it was firing on all cylinders, agrees.
"As you enter the Basilica di San Giorgio to take cover from a rainy Venetian day, you are consumed by a circulating wind atypical of the inside of a church. You approach the cupola in awe as a white mist rises from the center. You cannot decipher what you are experiencing until suddenly the mist begins to take shape and a glowing spiral ascends into the heavens," Millares says.
"Powerful and peaceful, amazing yet known, what was once a myth and never seen is no longer imagination. Anish Kapoor has realized ascension. And not exclusive to one religion, but universal, referencing many faiths where ascension is a common theme. Mohammad ascended into the seven heavens in a vision; Elijah ascended in a state of ecstasy; Jesus ascended after resurrecting from the dead; Buddha a biological ascension where the mind and body became one. You watch and reflect and wonder. Common ground for anyone who sees," Millares concludes.
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Let's lob up a prayer that the Miami Heat can crank up the steam like Kapoor has to wow back his crowds and chalk up a victory in tonight's crucial game five.