Tuesday, October 2, 2012

El Anatsui in Akron -- 1

I've written before about my love for the Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, who makes vast textile-like hangings out of metal liquor bottle caps and milk tin covers.  Last week I had the pleasure of seeing a huge exhibit of his work at the Akron Art Museum and it was spectacular even beyond my expectations.

First the overview:  he collects up a bazillion or so bits of metal (originally picked up from the streets where they were discarded by drinkers, now gotten in bulk from the factories without the intervening consumer stage) and wires them together into big sheets.

And I mean BIG -- covering whole walls of museum galleries, or even bigger.

Gravity and Grace, 2010

Sometimes the sheets hang relatively flat; sometimes they billow and bulge away from the wall like poufy drapery.

In fact, Anatsui is known for his practice of letting the local museum staff decide how to hang and display his work.  Seen today in Akron, a piece may droop out dramatically from a central pivot; seen next year in Brooklyn, who knows!  It may hang flat against the wall or spill out onto the floor.

Some of his pieces are subdued and monochromatic, like these two, facing one another in a dark room:

Red Block, 2010

Black Block, 2010

Others are exuberantly varied in shape, size color and texture:

Drifting Continents, 2009

I'll show you more of the exhibit in subsequent posts, but let me tell you right now: the show ends on Sunday.  If you're anywhere within a reasonable distance from Akron, this is a must-see.  Don't you really need a little art vacation this week?


  1. I saw one of his exhibits at the Clark Museum. It was phenomenal!

  2. Hi Norma! I bought the catalog from that exhibit and was just reading it a minute ago. He is great!

  3. I was lucky enough to see his work, attend a talk and see a documentary about his work, all in the same week a couple of years ago.

    I agree with you - if any of your readers are able to attend, they should!

  4. There was a beautiful installation of his work at UCLA a few years back. Seeing it continues to inspire me, even years later. I appreciate the sheer scale of the work, the fearlessness!
    I see why you would like his work as well. There is a connection to your own.

  5. I wish I would have know you were coming to Akron - I would have loved to meet you. Right now I live in Akron. The elegance of his work is hard to translate in pictures. I think I will stop in at lunch tomorrow and see the exhibit one more time before it closes.

  6. Draping has such appeal! I wonder what it is that we love about it.

  7. There is an exhibit of his work at the Denver Art Museum through Dec 2012. I attended a talk he gave a few days before the exhibit opened last month - quite fascinating. These big pieces are just great big quilts - they are created with "blocks" and the blocks have cool names like G8 (which is a political reference).

    One thing he said is these are used liquor bottle tops. He does get them from the distillery in bulk but they are not new - they are returned to the distillery when someone brings a bottle back to recycle.

    So each bit represents a bottle of alcohol consumed - it's part of the art. He doesn't like using new objects in his work - he doesn't like paint because it has on history.

  8. Wow! Never saw this work before. The textures and substance are amazing. Thanks for posting, I need to read up on his thoughts.