Thursday, August 20, 2015

But is it Art?

“LEGO bricks let me create anything I can imagine.”
Nathan Sawaya

The American lawyer turned sculptor Nathan Sawaya, whose phenomenally successful exhibition The Art of the Brick which has been touring the world non-stop for the last eight years, refers to himself as “the brick artist.”

As he told the 2 Dots website “I had LEGO bricks growing up.  When I was about ten years old, I asked my parents if I could get a pet dog, and when they did not get one for me, I created a life-size dog for myself out of LEGO bricks. It was an early turning point in my art career. As an adult, I created artwork using more traditional media such as clay and wire.  I had also done a series of sculptures out of candy.  A few years ago I thought about his toy from my childhood and challenged myself to create a large scale sculpture using just LEGO bricks.  It was well received got a strong reaction from friends and family. I continued working with bricks as a medium, and it has led to my current career as the brick artist.”

The serious end of the art world town is conflicted about Sawaya’s status as an artist. The Guardian newspaper’s Jonathan Jones says no, “Lego is not art. It does not need to be art. Being awesome is surely enough.” Whereas the Telegraph newspaper’s Jay Merrick is a little more circumspect. “A big Lego pencil is not art. Indeed, most of Sawaya’s pieces are not art. However, at least three of the sculptures have the power to stop you in your tracks. And in these pieces Nathan Sawaya, perhaps unwittingly, poses questions about the nature – actually, the lack of nature – of 21st century reality.”

Sawaya’s view is more sanguine stressing a desire to elevate the stature of his favored youthful building block.

For as he has said “I wanted to elevate this simple childhood toy to a place it has never been before: into the fine art galleries and museums. I appreciate the cleanliness of the LEGO brick.  The right angles.  The distinct lines. As so often in life, it is a matter of perspective.  Up close, the shape of the brick is distinctive.  But from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines change to curves.  That is what drew me to the brick.”

The Art of the Brick is currently on show at the following museums and galleries, Set Gallery until the 3rd of April, Ella Sharp Museum until 22nd of April Cincinnati Museum Center, Australia's Powerhouse Museum until the 1st of May and Sioux City Art Museum until the 10th of May.

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