El Anatsui, "Gli (Wall)," 2010, aluminum and copper wire, installation at the Akron Art Museum
(Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery; Photo by Andrew McAllister, courtesy the Akron Art Museum)
WHAT: “Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui”
WHEN: February 8 – August 4
WHERE: Brooklyn Museum, Morris A. and Meyer Schapiro Wind and Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Gallery, 5th Floor, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn
WHY THIS SHOW MATTERS: The Brooklyn Museum’s 5th floor gallery is bedecked in monumental tapestries, draped asymmetrically from the walls and spilling onto the floors like carpets of shimmering multi-colored jewels and precious metals. To the unfamiliar, Ghanaian artist El Anatsui’s sculptures way appear at first glance like opulent mosaics of Byzantine origin. But, upon further inspection, their repurposed, plastic, and commercial roots (actually comprised of bottle caps from a distillery in Nsukka, milk tin lids, or wood strips) reveal the artwork's true intentions as layered commentary on cultural exchange, African crafts, and colonial consumerism.
The show includes 30 site-specific artworks made of reclaimed metal and wood, 12 of which are his most recent creations. Anatsui’s practice is rooted in his completely unique and invented medium, a fusion of found object art and meticulous craft labor. The combination results in the mutable sculptural forms that comprise this exhibition – his first solo museum show in New York (he shows often with Jack Shainman Gallery). In addition, the flexible and transformable nature of the pieces, which dictates that there is no one way to display an individual work, give the pieces adaptable vitality. They contain multitudes.