Art world wonder exhibition at the DAM
A retrospective of El Anatsui’s 40 years of creativity
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 00:09
Ghanian-born artist El Anatsui employs various unique media to create his artworks, yet all of them seem to aid his process with ease. A retrospective of the contemporary artist, El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote To You About Africa, has launched at the Denver Art Museum (DAM).
The exhibition traces Anatsui’s artistic developments and processes for the 40 years of his career, with more than 60 exhibits presented. Visitors will have a chance to see his paintings, installations, and sculptures, which range in material from wood to ceramic and metal.
The metal wall sculptures, specifically, gained El Anatsui international acclaim and are the highlights of the exhibition. Made from discarded metal bottlenecks and bottle caps, these shiny tapestries make you wonder of all the uses one creative mind can find of often overlooked objects. One of those, Rain Has No Father? is a part of the DAM’s permanent collection and was commissioned especially for the museum.
Anatsui doesn’t like to compare his works to “recycling.” Instead, he transforms everyday materials into works of art. Wood, ceramics, bottle tops, aluminum cans¬, Anatsui elevates all of those materials to the status of art.
His works always seem to narrate a story, often commenting on Africa or the continent’s relations with other cultures. Loud-speaking artwork titles, like Yaw Berko (Stand Up And Shout No) and Stressed World clearly convey the artist’s message to society. Plus, his ceramic sculptures and etched wood sculptures reference Africa with its culture, rawness and originality.
In his works, he also had referenced the continent’s struggle with European colonialism through pieces of etched or burned wood pieces and liquor bottle tops that reference back to liquor trade in previous centuries.
Besides deep, thought-provoking subject matter, his art has the ability to transform, adapt, and move—literally. His metal wall sculptures are put together in pieces that can be rearranged and unfolded. His wooden works can be put together as some sort of a puzzle; the wooden blocks may be put in a different order, closer or further apart, or even upside-down. The irregular walls of the Denver Art Museum’s Hamilton Building only further emphasize the liveliness and organic nature of Anatsui’s work.
Another interesting work, Open(ing) Market, is a big set of wooden boxes from African masters, specifically commissioned by the artist. These boxes are grouped and put alongside each other to produce an interesting mosaic of black wooden boxes on the floor. Upon installing the pieces, Anatsui allows anyone handling his art to become artists themselves.
According to artist’s biography, his work has also been selected for numerous biennial exhibitions, including in Venice (1990 and 2007), Havana (1994), Johannesburg (1995), Gwangju (2004), Sharjah (2009), Paris Triennial (2012) and the Biennale of Sydney (2012). He also had many individual and group exhibitions all over the world. Yet, his main studio remains in Nigeria.
The exhibition will be open to the public through December 30, so don’t miss a chance to see wonderful creations and peek into one inventive mind behind them, celebrated all over the world.