El Anatsui's Gravity and Grace at Bass Museum Transforms Trash Into Art
The saying "One man's trash is another man's treasure" is taken literally with the opening of the latest art exhibition at the Bass Museum of Art.
Photo by Andrew McAllister, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum Portrait of El Anatsu
Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui features the work of Ghanaian-born artist El Anatsui. The exhibition was organized by Ellen Rudolph, former interim chief curator of the Akron Art Museum, the artist, and Jack Shainman Gallery in New York, and opens Friday, April 11. You can check it out through August 10, and it's worth it to see how your everyday trash can become priceless pieces of art.
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Anatsui, who has lived in Nigeria since 1978, resigned from his longtime position as a Professor of Art at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to fully pursue his passion of studio work. Anatsui's art has been cherished around the world and has been a part of private and public exhibitions, including in the British Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Centre Georges Pompidou, the Denver Art Museum, and plenty more. His rise to artistic prominence came after participating in the Venice Biennale in 1990 and 2007. In 2010, the Museum for African Art created a traveling retrospective of Anatsui's work called El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa.
Anatsui's work featured in Gravity and Grace will showcase 12 large metal wall and floor sculptures as well as a series of drawings that reveal Anatsui's process. Wooden wall reliefs will remind fans of Anatsui's work of his experimentation with other materials and reflect back on the bigger metal pieces.
The influence for Anatsui's work comes from the artistic traditions found in Ghana, Nigeria, and the West, including the modernist and post-modern movements. Combining his personal concerns along with concerns shared by local communities and the world, Anatsui states that he's inspired by the "huge piles of detritus from consumption," particularly in Nigeria, where distilleries produce different brands of liquors in bottles that are eventually recycled. The aluminum tops, labels, and seals that aren't used are collected by Anatsui and turned into spectacular tapestry-like pieces. The collection of materials from the liquor bottles also reference the importance of liqour in the slave trade, reflecting the relationships between Africa, Europe, and the United States.