Building himself a uniquely personal technique in which he reforms cast-away materials such as bottle caps and copper wire, El Anatsui has been orchestrating works that go against the definitions of any singular medium and dimension. Standing between a vague figuration and an expressive abstraction of bright colors, the artist’s constructions from discarded materials resist to classification in any one form as sculpture, installation or painting.
Trains of Thought, Anatsui’s current show at Jack Shainman Gallery celebrates the artist’s return to the City a year after his first New York exhibition at Brooklyn Museum, titled Gravity and Grace, and his concurring High Line commission, Broken Bridge II. Filling inside the gallery space, the artist’s familiar materials simultaneously recall a familiar buoyancy and a distant narrative from equally distant lands.
Born in Ghana and raised in Nigeria, Anatsui is known for producing all of his works in his studio in Nsukka, Nigeria with the aid of his many studio assistants, who gather these mundane everyday materials to transform into the agents of his detailed structures. Contrary to the ‘narrative‘ aspect of his technique, these materials were once utilitarian objects used by anonymous people, and on Anatsui’s grandiose scale, the works manage to avoid any imposed interpretation or theme.
The works consist primarily of a copper framework, adorned with small pieces of printing plates and found aluminum, creating striking forms in which a wide spectrum of tales, from desolate towns in Africa to tall rises of New York, are conveyed. Newspaper printing plates, with their primary purposes of carrying and delivering data, adjust a statement on the validity of information and its position against the flow of time, taken outside of the creative elements and linear assumptions of the utilitarian object.
Trains of Thoughts I, a spacious floor piece, captures the preeminent state of the exhibition. Countless pieces of intricate materials hold onto distinct features, as their flaws and characteristics unite in a single bodies to assemble voices from numerous spaces and ideologies.
The exhibition is on view through November 15th.
*All images are by Osman Can Yerebakan for Art Observed.
Jack Shainman Gallery [Exhibition Page]