At the Brooklyn Museum, the Wonderful World of El Anatsui

Brooklyn, NEW YORK—The fifth floor of the Brooklyn Museum is the site of one of the most fascinating exhibitions on view in New York City. “Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui” features more than 30 contemporary works by El Anatsui, the globally renowned African artist. The show includes both his current practice—wall works pieced together with found bottle caps and sculptures composed of lids from tin cans—along with earlier wood works.

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Installation view of “Gli (Wall),” 2010 (aluminum and copper wire).

According to the museum, “Anatsui converts found materials into a new type of media that lies between sculpture and painting, combining aesthetic traditions from his birth country, Ghana; his home in Nsukka, Nigeria; and the global history of abstraction.”

Rather than sculpture or painting, the site-specific installations created using thousands of bottle caps from a distillery in Nsukka are more like textiles, folding and billowing from the walls like mosaic-patterned fabrics. From a distance, across the gallery, the installations appear fiber-based. Up close, the parts that compose the whole—flattened and cut bottle caps—reveal themselves to be sharp-edged rather than soft. From all vantage points, the intricate, masterful works are amazing sights with a regal quality.

“Gravity and Grace” is Anatsui’s first solo exhibition at a New York museum. The show is on view from Feb. 8 to Aug. 4, 2013. Update: The exhibit has been extended and will now run through Aug. 18, 2013.

“Broken Bridge II,” a recycled copper installation by El Anatsui, is also currently on view in New York City, along the High Line, through Summer 2013.

All photos © Arts Observer

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Detail of “Gli (Wall).” 2010.

Watch a video of El Anatsui discussing his work with author Susan Vogel and Kevin D. Dumouchelle, the curator of the exhibit.

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“Drainpipe,” 2010 (tin and copper wire).

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Detail of “Drainpipe.”

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“Drifting Continents,” 2009 (aluminum and copper wire).

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Detail of “Drifting Continents.”

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Installation view of “Waste Paper Bags,” 2004-2010 (aluminum printing plates, paint, copper wire).

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Detail of “Waste Paper Bags.”

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“(Amemo) Mask of Humankind,” 2010 (aluminum and copper wire).

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“Ozone Layer,” 2010 (aluminum and copper wire).

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Detail of “Peak,” 2010 (tin and copper wire), with from left to right, “Red Block” and “Black Block,” both 2010 (aluminum and copper wire), in the background.

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Detail of “Black Block.”

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“Gravity and Grace,” 2010 (aluminum and copper wire).

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“Ink Splash,” 2010 (aluminum and copper wire).

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