Last night I attended an opening for Gravity & Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum. The show opens today and runs through August 4. I brought my handy lo-fi Blackberry camera so be ready for some awesome shots! They let anyone snap away as long as there was no flash.
The exhibition originated at the Akron Art Museum and will travel to the Des Moines Art Center in Iowa followed by the Bass Museum of Art, Miami, Florida. It would be worthwhile to see the exhibition in all 4 locations since El Anatsui gives the curators, exhibition/installation managers and art handlers free rein in how to install the pieces. If you look at the photos of the pieces in Akron you will see they are not quite the same in Brooklyn. They are the same artworks but just draped and reconstructed in different ways.
The Brooklyn Museum website page for the exhibition shows the work above, Gli (Wall), hung in a different way at the Akron Art Museum. The Assistant Curator Arts of Africa and Pacific Islands, Kevin Dumouchelle mentioned that the work was made for an 18 foot space but since the Brooklyn Museum had a 72 foot tall space they could install it as they did. It’s quite impressive as you turn the corner to enter the exhibition and you see this work which embodies the monumental quality.
El Anatsui is a true working artist. He’s from Ghana but has lived in Nsukka, Nigeria teaching there at the University of Nigeria since 1969. It wasn’t until the 1990 Venice Biennale, when he was 46, that the world really started to notice him. I am not so much a fan of his earlier works. They are important so that you see how he worked from sculptures like the one below to what he is creating now.
There are earlier works in the show but the majority of them date from 2010 on. Using liquor bottle caps from a distillery in Nsukka as his medium, El Anatsui creates fluid, organic sculptures. I know there are personal and political messages in the works but I just enjoy the colors and patterns he puts together, plus the element of the installation site dictating the final product with some input from curators and art handlers reinforces a creative, community effort. He has a workshop helping him piece together the recycled aluminum into sections with copper wire, but in a video from the exhibition you see El Anatsui choosing how to connect these sections for his ultimate canvas.
And if you can’t get enough of El Anatsui check out his installation, Broken Bridges II, adjacent to the High Line between West 22nd and 21st Streets. It’s up until this Summer.