New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park is set to receive a new piece of public art: Anish Kapoor’s captivating “Descension,” a continuous black whirlpool set into the ground. The project has been commissioned by the Public Art Fund (PAF) to celebrate its 40th anniversary, and it will be the first time that the piece is shown in the US.
“Descension” is a circular opening, 26 feet in diameter, in which a pool of black water swirls continuously. The water is swallowed by a central vortex which appears to suck the liquid into an unknown abyss below the ground. Previously exhibited as a smaller work at India’s Kochi Murizis Biennale, and as part of wider installations in both San Gimignano’s Galleria Continua in Italy and France’s Palace of Versaille in 2014, Descension will be installed in picturesque Brooklyn Bridge Park in May 2017.
The siting of the artwork is deliberate, as it will present a marked contrast to the steady flow of the East River which runs alongside the park. The mechanics of the piece employ sophisticated engineering to achieve a conceptual clarity, resulting in the mesmerizing constant swirl. The water is dyed with a natural black pigment, and the churn creates the water’s inverse in the form of white foam which sits atop it before traveling into the void. Similar care to display his installations as effortlessly crafted can also be seen in his mirrored works, which appear entirely seamless, although they are constructed from multiple sheets of metal.
Kapoor’s work has long been concerned with challenging society’s reading of the world by offering a lens which distorts and disrupts our perception of the known. Often referred to in terms of contrasts, solid/void, inside/outside, light/dark, large-scale public works such Chicago’s famous Cloud Gate or Dismemberment, Site 1 in New Zealand blur the lines of conceived reality, forcing the viewer to confront existence through their engagement with the work.
Of Descension’s theme, Kapoor says, “I have always thought of the void as a transitional space, an in-between space. It’s very much to do with time. I have always been interested as an artist in that very first moment of creativity where everything is possible and nothing has actually happened. It’s a space of becoming.” In this piece, the viewer is invited to peer into the void, whereupon a moment of calm might be induced by the rhythm and relentlessness of the illogic of the water’s performance.
Public Art Fund says of the piece, “Through this transformation of properties inherent to materials and objects, Kapoor blurs the boundaries between nature, landscape, and art, allowing us to perceive space differently. Kapoor invites us to experience the sheer perceptual wonder of an ordinary material like water made to behave in an extraordinary way.”
Anish Kapoor is one of the most celebrated artists of our time, and also one of the most controversial. At the moment he is one a body of 200 leading artists who are part of a movement called “Hands Off Our Revolution,” which has come about as a reaction to current global right-wing trends such as Brexit and the election of Donald Trump. In 2016 he acquired the sole rights to the world’s blackest black, the Vantablack pigment, which caused a furor in the art world and after which rival artist Stuart Semple banned Kapoor from using his creation, the world’s “pinkest pink.”