I remember the first Anish Kapoor work I saw. It was small. Four modest mounds of shapes, grouped together and dredged with pure pigment in primary colors, but each seemed to have its own gravitational pull.
As his work progressed, the pieces grew larger; I remember a waist-high wing of natural slate with a perfect circle cut into it, filled with such intense blue pigment that it was impossible to tell just how deep the aperture was. The silvered pieces started appearing at around the same time. Dismissed by some as a cheap trick lifted from the hall of mirrors, they were significant to me for the way they suddenly put the viewer inside the artwork. Often as a ghosted image.
As the works got to be room-sized (and even bigger), people were actually physically inside the pieces. In 1998, the Hayward Gallery London held a major retrospective of Kapoor’s work. The final gallery was devoted to a bell-shaped ceiling piece in dense, deep red. I was so overcome I cried. The piece was womb-like. It triggered in me both fear and comfort.
And so to Cloud Gate in the Millennium Park in Chicago, at first sight a masterstroke of public art, reflecting the famous skyline of the city. However there was again the invitation to the interior, the aperture, the uterine experience. From some angles the twin globes of the piece touching the ground resembled buttocks of a female form splayed out, as the focus was once more on entering the work.
Not to get too Freudian but it feels as though some of the unrecognized attraction and excitement was actually a pull to return to the womb. I’m sure the solid burgers of Chicago would be horrified by the suggestion that their now beloved centerpiece was anything more than a ‘bean’. Something that complements their well-known Chicago dogs and those signature tall towers.
Got any other examples of obviously sexual art hiding in plain view? I’d love to hear about them.