I made a point to get to the Blanton to see this before it came down January 22nd, since it is the largest collection of El Anatsui’s work to be shown in the United States, and the Blanton is the only southwest venue to host the exhibition. My determination was rewarded with vibrant visual rhythms. Scribbling my impressions in a small notepad helped me keep some works fresh in my mind so I could post them here.
chip chop/chip chop/repeat, nick nack/repeat.
Patterns reminiscent of woven fabric and methodical marks written as language were burned, carved, & gouged into planks, laid side by side to form tableaus; arresting figures emerged from wittily assembled, carved, and painted wood scraps. Worn materials made new again through the artist’s visceral energy: scored and scoured, charred and etched, painted and pieced. Each work has stories to tell, transformative journeys to recount.
I am glad to be reminded that the range of materials, tools, and mark-making techniques available to an artist is as wide as the imagination. Fancy supplies are not required to make something meaningful.
Metal made fluid, flexible, like nets of some mystic ritual, woven from bottle tops & wire, discarded bits of mass consumption. Patterns and shapes suggestive of familiar forms: a corset, a cloak, a flag, a map. Rippling from sparse to dense and back again, the varied color clusters and compositions providing a unique tone for each work.
Even the draping of the “tapestries” speaks volumes in each work . “Stressed World” was stretched and pulled taught, yet sagging under its own weight. Lulling waves swelled in “Oasis.” “Tahari in Blue” was somehow formal with its thick, crisp creases. “Susuvo” fluttered like a regal flag. I was surprised to discover that such installation choices were likely made by the curator rather than the artist, as explained in Glasstire’s article about the exhibit.
Making the rounds in the gallery and gazing upon some works more than once, I became conscious of time, its passage, the substantial duration required for the wall sculptures. Yet amazingly, some pieces conveyed chaos, despite the sustained, deliberate, and tedious construction apparent. I love the way art surprises me, puzzles me, spurs me to trains of thought not present in my workaday life.
Images borrowed from Glasstire.