Africa Comes to Brooklyn Heights

Image courtesy of El Anatsui and The Museum of African Art

Image courtesy of El Anatsui and The Museum of African Art

The Museum for African Art and BRIC Arts/Media/Bklyn present El Anatsui: Process and Project from March 25th to May 2nd.  The BRIC Rotunda Gallery is located at 33 Clinton Street, two blocks off Montague.  It is a leafy, lovely enclave with a jewel of an exhibition space.  The showcase piece (pictured above) is The Peak Project (1999); small mountains of gold, approximately two feet high, in the center of the gallery.  However, closer inspection reveals that the gold is actually the tops of tin cans; sweetened condensed milk.

El  Anatsui is a Ghanaian artist who lives in Nigeria.  In this sculpture, he has created a glittering fabric using recycled metal— at once so dangerous, says Lisa Binder, curator, that the staff at the Smithsonian had to have tetanus shots, but also so beautiful it evokes gold as well as the sun or stars, manipulated to form three dimensional peaks.  They are shaped by hand without any instruction from the artist.  They are shipped flat.  The curators of various museums and galleries, including BRIC, create the installation organically— to fit the space.

Everyone in Nigeria drinks this milk, then throws away the cans.  In his hands, however, they are transformed.  They are broken down, flattened, then sewn together with copper wire— in keeping with his philosophy that breakage is a condition for new growth.  El Anatsui made his name by creating a delicate, yet monumentally scaled, gorgeous, shining tapestry from aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire.   Dusasa 1, 2007, was installed at the 52nd Venice Biennale.  The story goes he found the bottle caps by the side of the road.  He likes to use materials that are meaningful in the context of local culture.

Today, he is a superstar sculptor.  His work is in the permanent collection at the British Museum, Centre Pompidou, The Metropolitan Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art.  Yet unlike his peers, he remains in Africa.  A professor who lives a quiet life.  One hopes he plans on traveling to New York City for his first retrospective, El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa, at the new, permanent home of the Museum for African Art in 2010.  Ground has been broken on the illustrious Museum Mile, on 5th Avenue, for the first time since the Guggenheim, 1959.  The Museum for African Art is one of the premiere institutions devoted to exhibiting traditional and contemporary African Art.

For the next two months, however, El Anatsui will be right here, in Brooklyn, at the BRIC Rotunda Gallery.  BRIC Arts is a multi-disciplinary arts and media non-profit dedicated to presenting performing, visual and media arts programs that are reflective of Brooklyn’s diverse communities.  The collaboration between BRIC and the Museum for African Art is not to be missed.  In addition to the sculpture which dominates the gallery, one can also view El Anatsui’s process by viewing his sketches, photographs and exhibition catalogs.  Its a rare close up look of a world class artist.

For more information:  BRIC 718-875-4047.  Museum for African Art 718-784-7700

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