Skip to main content

On Kensington Gardens & Anish Kapoor, footballer

When Patty and I were in London 10 days ago, we were staying in a hotel in Lancaster Gate, overlooking the northern side of Kensington Gardens. We took a stroll through the gardens in the hour before it got dark, enjoying the autumn leaves strewn over the pathways, and the feel of the warm moist English November air on our faces. As we walked down to the Serpentine, the river that snakes through the gardens (really a big park adjacent to Hyde Park), we saw this on the opposite bank:

It was a huge stainless steel disc, easily at least twelve feet high, looking boldly out of place in such a leafy setting. I wasn't sure what it was, but I guessed that it must be a sculpture of some sort, and I had the feeling that I'd seen it before. Sure enough, when I got back to the USA, I looked it up and found out that it was Anish Kapoor's 'Sky Mirror', which I had seen several times on Rockefeller Plaza in New York City:

I think it worked better in New York. On the evening that I saw it in London, the sky was so flat and grey that the mirror didn't really reflect anything. As a piece of public art, I think it's so minimal as to be almost a provocation. At least the 'bean' in Chicago impresses with its size, and has an attractively playful element to it.

Here's an anecdote about Kapoor: back in the early 1990s, a friend of mine who lived in West London used to play in the same Saturday pub football (soccer) league as Anish Kapoor. My friend told me that there was this short, stocky guy who could run pretty fast, and who used to go in for tackles that were considered just a little too enthusiastic for a Saturday pick-up game. In fact, his tackling was so aggressive that on one occasion it nearly led to a fight. If you ever hear Kapoor talking about the spiritual and meditative nature of his work, you'll see the irony.

 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader

Popular posts from this blog

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…

Artist-Writer-Artist: Gerard Woodward

I am extremely pleased that poet and author Gerard Woodward agreed to be interviewed for this series. Gerard and my wife, Patty, were colleagues for a short while at the end of 2008, when Patty taught for one semester at Bath Spa University, where Gerard is a faculty member in the Creative Writing program. Gerard spent the spring semester of 2011 in Chicago on a reciprocal visit. Gerard has published poetry, short-stories, and novels. "Householder", his 1991 collection of poetry, won the Somerset Maugham Award in the UK, and his novel "I'll Go to bed at Noon" was shortlisted for the Booker Prize for Fiction. Of his most recent novel, "Nourishment", The Daily Telegraph reviewer wrote: "It is a novel to be savoured, and Woodward is a novelist to be treasured." It turns out that in addition to his success as a writer, Gerard started his adult life in art college, and still draws and paints when he can. So here, from a writer's point of view…