For those who don’t know El Anatsui, I would describe him as both an artist and a magician. As I was walking through the galleries, I found myself surrounded by colors, shapes and movements. I heard mysterious clinking and saw light reflections that led me away to his wonderful world where milk can tops become sparkling cone-shaped sculptures and where liquor bottle caps turn into colorful mosaics.
The artist’s leitmotiv is “freedom”. There is a freedom of shifting material as he goes over the usually-inflexible characteristic of copper and aluminum by folding, shaping and assembling those elements into an extremely articulated and twistable sculpture. There is also a freedom in questioning notions of religious, political and social walls in general. After traveling to Berlin, a city with a history of building such political constructs, he realized that walls only block the ocular view while they actually encourage imagination to see beyond barriers. This idea is the inspiration behind his metal curtains. Not only his art is visually impressive, it is also conceptually engaging.
“My work is about medium and new process” he also says. As I was observing these metal sculptures, I was astonished by the immense scale of each art artwork as well as its meticulous craftsmanship: each constituent component from liquor bottle cap to milk cork is carefully folded, pierced and attached to one another through a very precise and regular process. This process is executed by El Anatsui’s twenty-assistant team based in Nigeria who works all-day-long on collecting, folding and assembling tons of copper and aluminum scrapings into multitude of blocks. Then, under El Anatsui’s artistic eye, those blocks are assembled into huge patchwork-style curtains. Knowing about this impressive process makes his art even more fascinating because one then understands that each piece is made in order to be observed from both short and long distances. Here again, the artist plays with visual effects, perspectives and even transparence in weaved metal curtains of varying densities.
Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum/ On View: February 8 – August 4, 2013.
To learn more about the art, visit: http://www.brooklynmuseum.org
Museum hours: Wed, Fri, Sun (11AM- 6PM), Thu (11AM-10PM)
Brooklyn Museum: 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York 11238-6052
Text by: Camille Desprez