ART BLANCHE: El Anatsui

Though the exhibition opened in February, I decided to revisit Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum before it closes on August 18th. One of my very favorite exhibitions of the year, Gravity and Grace features stunning installation/sculptures by the Ghanaian artist, who is known worldwide for his beautifully executed artworks, reflecting the interaction of cultures as well as materials.

Using found materials, including bottle caps, other metals, and wood, Anatsui weaves tapestry-like sculptures that collapse boundaries between two-dimensional and three-dimensional artwork. The large scale works are exquisitely intricate like Impressionist paintings or woven cloth, and feature much more detail upon closer inspection. The gorgeously undulating folds call to mind fabric, and Anatsui is able to utilize the materials in a way that makes it surprising to discover that they are actually made out of metal and wood.

The sprawling exhibition consists of over 30 works, each one unique in its scope of materials, shapes, and hues. The wall-hanging works are fabricated out of bottle caps from a distillery in Nsukka, resembling the traditional kente cloth native to Anatsui’s home birthplace, Ghana. For most of his career, he has lived and worked in Nigeria, and the beautiful fusion of cultures throughout his life gives his work cross-cultural significance.

After my first visit to the exhibition, I left thinking of Pointillism and even religious altarpieces. However, upon my second viewing, I left with a greater impression of, simply, the sheer beauty of the craftsmanship of the works, and a reverence for the artist. A stunning display of artistry, Gravity and Grace provided inspiration and a multicultural experience that expanded my understanding of installation art. You only have four more days to see the exhibition. Find all the details here.