The Art of El Anatsui

El Anatsui

El Anatsui Akron Museum of Art

Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui was first shown at the Akron Museum of Art, followed by its appearance at the Brooklyn Museum of Art this Spring/Summer where I was lucky enough to see it.  This show continues on to Des Moines and then Miami in early 2014.   I have been a fan of this artist since I first saw a piece by him at the Clark Museum in Williamstown MA.

El AnatsuiEl Anatsui is a Ghanaian artist now living and working in Nigeria, where he is a Professor at the University in Nsukka.  He has explored his own nomadic experience in many mediums mostly using found and recycled materials.

El AnatsuiFinding a bag of recycled cans of milk led to “Drainpipe”, constructed from hundreds of linked can lids, snaking across the floor and up the walls of the museum.

El AnatsuiFinding bags of screw top liquor bottle caps led to his most famous and ambitious sculptures which he describes as sculpture paintings. “Drifting Continents” undulates across the wall and around the corner to the next wall.

El AnatsuiOne entered these galleries in Brooklyn Museum in and under “Gli (Wall)” monumental work of several pieces hanging down two stories.  El Anatsui explains that “Walls are meant to block views but they block only the view of the eye not the view….walls reveal more than they hide”.

El AnatsuiIt was a joy to see the myriad texture and materials up very close.  One had to concentrate very hard NOT TO TOUCH!  Although after seeing the entire exhibit and watching a number of videos featuring El Anatsui, I think he wouldn’t mind at all.

El Anatsui“Ink Blot” slithers down the wall fairly smoothly and simply shimmers, while tiny blue squares seem to cascade out of the tapestry.

El AnatsuiThis close-up shows the intricate piecing of the fragments that make up the whole.

El AnatsuiAnother shimmering panel, “Ozone” is gathered up and more undulating than “Blue Ink” resulting in great depth and movement.

El Anatsui“Black Box” and its companion “Red Box” are the most monochromatic pieces in the exhibit.  Don’t you love the vast folds and pillowing of the materials – looking like a textile, when it is all metal?

El AnatsuiIn a close-up the little glints of bright color are apparent along with the painstaking construction of the piece.

El Anatsui“Earth” reaches from floor to ceiling and with its tucks and folds has a great monumentality and presence.  When El Anatsui speaks of his work, he speaks of freedom and a large part of that is the freedom he grants to the intstallers of his work to hang and manipulate it as they will. It even encompasses choosing which end is up.

El AnatsuiOne last peek at the right edge of “Earth”.  Can you tell I am in love with all this stunning work?  However, no photos of mine can convey their power.  If you are intrigued do watch this wonderful YouTube link on the exhibit:   Even more fascinating is the documentary “Fold, Crumple, Crush” by Susan Vogel (2011, Icarus Films) that follows the installations of El Anatsui in the Venice Biennale as well as in Nsukka.




About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
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