(noun) nonchalant absurdity with a dash of embarrassment.

(verb) to be shark bitten.

(adverb) in a manner that is nonchalantly absurd and embarrassing.

01 March 2013


Amemo (Masks of Humankind)
El Anatsui's Gravity and Grace inspires as much as it leaves its viewers in awe. The colorful, large-scale wall sculptures made of appropriated items–ranging from alcohol caps to tin can lids–and Anatsui's selective and provocative choice of titles for the large body of work has his audience formulating their own questions about what lies before them, rather than the artist providing them with answers. Beneath the rotunda on the fifth floor of the museum hangs Gli (Wall); here, the artist visually displays his "interest in the notion of walls as religious, political, and social constructs." In using the Ewe language, Anatsui is able to play with words and their meanings (i.e. Gli can mean "wall," "disrupt," or "story"). On the panel of Gli it quotes the artist: "Walls are meant to block views...but they block the view of the eye–the ocular view–not the imaginative view. When the eye scans a certain barrier, the imagination tends to go beyond that barrier. Walls reveal more things than they hide."

In Drifting Continents, Anatsui explores conceptual interconnectivity in using the linked screw-top liquor bottle caps––a medium he invented. Again, the title provokes the viewer to see beyond the materials; here, the bottle caps represent "how the world is interconnected, or, more specifically, how the historical trade in alcohol links the continents of Africa, Europe, and the Americas."

My personal favorite from the show Amemo (Masks of Humankind), like most of his wall sculptures, is made of aluminum and copper wire, and it has the most varied color palette in the entire show. It wasn't the colors, however, that attracted me most to it, it was its meaning: "This work has no specific orientation and illustrates the artist's desire for his art to reflect the ever-changing condition of life." A strong meaning, for an incredibly beautiful and sturdy piece of art. An example of art that endures time.

El Anatsui's artistic ethos is one in which I find most inspiring and non-egotistic, that is, compared to other artists I either know personally or have read far too much about. Whether it be the several "nonfixed forms" sculptures, comprising most of his earlier work, or the massive wall hangings that drape like curtains, as if they are made of fabric––some from ceiling to floor––Anatsui "wishes to inspire creativity in the people charged with installing his work and says he merely provides 'data' for others to reenvision and manipulate."

Amemo (detail)

Gli (Wall)

Drifting Continents

Ink Splash

Earth's Skin