El Anatsui at the ROM

Monday, December 13th, 2010. Filed under: Art
El Anatsui draped wall installation.

El Anatsui draped wall installation.

I had heard of Ghana-born sculptor El Anatsui before – he has exhibited at the Venice Biennale, the Met (New York), the British Museum (London), the National Museum of African Art (Washington, DC), the Pompidou (Paris) – so couldn’t wait for the opening of  El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa at the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto).

Images I’d seen did not prepare me for the sheer gorgeousness of his work, especially the draped wall installations made from metal bottle caps and copper wire.

While not the most massive of his pieces (pictures here will give you some idea of scale but were not taken by me and the pieces shown are not part of the ROM show), the hangings at the ROM are still very large. From a distance, they have the appearance of kente cloth (not surprisingly, his father was a master weaver), a Byzantine mosaic or gilded Gustav Klimt.  Up close, they are incredibly intricate.

El Anatsui portrait.

El Anatsui.

The bottle caps–and are there any more negligible bits of modern garbage?–have been punched, crimped, folded and amassed into tidal waves of beauty rather than landfill.

One of the world’s most important artists of his generation, El Anatsui takes the most insignificant of found objects and creates compelling works that embody history and traditional Ghanaian beliefs as well as reflecting on issues of globalization, consumerism and waste.

There has been a lot said about – and by – Brahim El Anatsui.  I’ll leave it to you to google up on him.  Honestly, I’m at a loss for words to describe the impact of seeing his work in person.  Go, and prepare to be gobsmacked.
El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa will be up at the ROM until February 27, 2011.

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