5224_4Anish Kapoor, ‘Today You Will Be in Paradise,’ Installation, Barbara Gladstone Gallery, New York, NY

Upon viewing Anish Kapoor’s monumental Internal Object paintings in “Today You Will Be In Paradise” at Barbara Gladstone Gallery, I found myself immersed in what I considered a psychological space, loaded with ideas of carnage, political violence, and the body. These works, made of silicone, resin, and pigment, are probably the most evidentially “crafted” works by Kapoor and his staff, as there are visible brush marks that appear as actual flesh from a distance. The hairs on my arms stood on end while my eyes moved throughout the landscape of pulsing paintings before me, teeming with almost audible energy. The work evoked memories of visits to slaughterhouses in Italy and of the visceral paintings by Francis Bacon, Soutine, and Rembrandt. What differentiates Kapoor’s works from those historical oil paintings embodying corporeality is that Kapoor’s incorporate a strange hybrid mix of organic imagery and inorganic mediums. The materials he utilizes, specifically silicone, are representative of today’s biotechnological era. Silicone has a myriad of functions. It is the material used for breast and butt implants, as well as sex toys, and Evolskin Shoes. Even smartphone cases, which are often made of silicone, are increasingly designed to physically feel like extensions of our bodies. Anish Kapoor’s mix of organic imagery and synthetic media speaks to our era of technological hacking and emulation of the natural.

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Anish Kapoor, Internal Objects in Three Parts (Details), 2013-15, Three-panel relief in painted silicone and wax
Photos by Gabrielle Vitollo

Because the semi-abstract Internal Object paintings are embedded with suggestions of gender and sex they strike a deeply personal nerve. Kapoor makes gender associations that play with notions of femininity and scale, such as the inclusion of a wavy, primped ponytail emerging from one of the works. I approached these techno-body silicone paintings from the perspective of an individual who spends a lot of time investigating what it means to identify as a woman in an era of biotechnology. Just from watching the plastic surgery reality show Botched, in which silicone is presented as a miracle material, it is clear that people have wildly different definitions of “womanhood” and “manhood”, as well as everything else across the gender spectrum. The increased production of femininity and masculinity via surgical and/or chemical means has illuminated a tension between the rejection and the amplification of essentialism in gender and biological categories. These materials and techniques challenge and stretch the very definitions of “man” and “woman”.

DSC_0378Anish Kapoor, Internal Objects in Three Parts (Detail), 2013-15, Three-panel relief in painted silicone and wax
Photo by Gabrielle Vitollo

In American culture today, where life seems increasingly like science fiction, the body is treated as an experimental guinea pig. For individuals born here or in other developed, progressive countries, inventions such as silicone, uppers, downers, hormonal treatments, and information exchange via the Internet facilitate the hacking of our own biological functions – physically, chemically, and emotionally – in ways that heretofore did not exist. Because of new technologies and social progress, the body’s main function to create and host copies of the species is becoming less defining and new gender identities and roles are being invented. When biological tools are bought and sold, those who can afford them are able to decide when and how to use them. Consequentially, we are part of a generation that is challenging the prescribed identities and societal norms associated with gender. We are living in an era in which one can hack evolutionary technology and rewrite one’s own code in order to mold the body’s functional and aesthetic qualities.

DSC_0333Anish Kapoor, Internal Objects in Three Parts (Detail), 2013-15, Three-panel relief in painted silicone and wax
Photo by Gabrielle Vitollo

Anish Kapoor’s silicone meat paintings evoke a cathartic release in me. The Internal Object hybrid paintings acknowledge the post-reproductive body as ultimately a bizarre swelling, oozing, bleeding, living organism intertwined with technology. Simultaneously weird and beautiful, they symbolize a sublime and carnally unifying force. The abstraction, the visceral impact, and the micro-nuances of Kapoor’s elegantly built/evolved paintings heighten the beauty of the complex machine we call the body. Flesh is one of the commonalities we share with almost every other living entity on the planet. The paintings’ bright reds with dark, luscious purples, and fatty whites trigger immediate primal emotions. For millennia we have associated these colors with sensorial data related to the body, fear, pain, grief, hunger, and gratification. I cannot look away.

DSC_0361Anish Kapoor, Internal Objects in Three Parts (Detail), 2013-15, Three-panel relief in painted silicone and wax
Photo by Gabrielle Vitollo

Kapoor’s colors and textures have the ability to impact one’s own body and bind us to the rest of the planet as a single organism. Perhaps it is cynical to think we are essentially meat machines, but the logical and illogical intricacy of these carcass paintings as well as the anatomical studies of Leonardo da Vinci would convince me otherwise. We are exquisite machines that evolved from a common efficient ancestor and, using technology, we can collaborate with and enrich this biological history. For me, Anish Kapoor’s silicone Internal Object paintings impart a sense of biotechnological poetry.

Vitollo_MotherlodeGabrielle Vitollo, Motherlode, 2015, Acrylic and spray paint on paper, 60 x 85 inches

Gabrielle Vitollo creates graphic acrylic and oil paintings, aquatints, post-human figurative sculptures, GIFs, light boxes, and holograms that engage with the expanding technological world of synthetic realities. She resides in Brooklyn. www.gabriellevitollo.comInstagram