Dan Graham, Triangular Solid with Circular Inserts, 1989
(installed at Peggy Guggenheim, Venice)
Over the last couple of posts we’ve kind of established that reflections can be confusing and can change the way we experience space. But regular readers must know by now that once I’ve caught hold of a thread I’ll pull at it just that bit longer than is reasonable so today is, um, well, more of the same really. Sorry about that.
Much of Dan Graham’s work, in particular his two-way mirror pavilions – could be seen as architecture as well as art. The pavilions are small glass structures which are usually partly made of mirrored glass which confuses the way the structure reflects the environment it sits in. The effect of this is that people are prone to wandering in and out of view unexpectedly and the space seems to change as one walks round or through the structure.
Anish Kapoor, Vertigo and Non-Object (Pole), both 2008
On one level, this is probably the most inappropriately titled post I’ve written. Anish Kapoor’s work is, in my view at least, usually very far from down to earth. At its best, Kapoor’s work is extraordinary; it can redefine the space it occupies and disorientate, baffle and sometimes entertain its viewers. But – with the notable exception of the quietly beautiful, and easily overlooked, pregnant wall pieces – subtle it ain’t. Pompous, yes. Excessive, certainly. Subtle, not so much.
To start with the entertaining, by bringing strangely distorting mirrored surfaces into the gallery space, Kapoor entices his audience to pose and play. This is art crossed with the funfair in the form of the hall of mirrors and it’s hard not to be beguiled by the result. Moving backwards and forwards before the mirrors, we might get fatter and thinner or be turned upside down. The results aren’t exactly profound but they are both beautiful and good fun.
Daniel Buren, Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape, 2011
Art is a window on the world. Well, in the case of Daniel Buren’s Borrowing and Multiplying the Landscape, installed for the opening of Turner Contemporary in Margate last year, it is. Buren’s installation modifies the view of the sea beyond the windows of the gallery foyer by covering much of the glass with coloured tape so that the sea is seen through a circular window cut into the yellow stripes. In a sense the work forms an inverse sun framing, on my visit at least, the greyness of and English summer afternoon. Ah well.
When I think about the role of art – if it can be said to have one – I think I fundamentally see it as holding a mirror up to the world. I guess this means art tells us stuff me already know, it just switches things around a bit, creating familiarity tinged with an oddness that somehow focuses the mind. Having just written that, I’m inclined to think it proves I probably shouldn’t think about the role of art at all. It just makes me spout art crap.