|El Anatsui, Akua's Surviving Children, Wood and Metal, 1996|
Born in Ghana in 1944, El Anatsui knew he was different from his other thirty-two brothers and sisters when he took interest in symbols and the shape they created meant more to him than just symbols or letters. In this exhibition I saw works from over the last five decades of his artistic career. When you first walk into the space there is a fairly open area with a large wall on the left and open free standing sculptures scattered evenly to the right funneling you along the outter wall to eventually bring you back to the middle to finish. The first piece you walk upon is a very large, shiny, multi-colored quilt looking piece hung off the wall at different distances on your left. By different distances I'm stating that the installations look like their moving or flowing in the wind like a flag might be. What is especially interesting about not just this piece but the whole exhibition, is that El Anatsui allows the museum to set up his intallations as they would like to or how they see them fitting the space best.
|El Anatsui, Untitled, Aluminum and Copper Wire, 2007|
So after passing this first piece on the wall in the entrence of the space I came up to a series of sculptures on the ground in the corner of the room which would then turn you down a long wall leading you past more single wooden and tin sculptures on your right. But in the corner, the sculptures were made out of old milk can lids slightly rusting but still very shiny and wired together reminding me of little mountains.
|El Anatsui, Peak Project, Tin and Copper Wire, 1999|
Getting close to the end there was a ceramic snake looking piece laid in the back corner baracaded by a wall that was to represent a river in Africa near El Anatsui's homeland. Behind that wall was a small television showing how the installations were hung and placed for the exhibition at The Blanton, with a few of his books to browse through and a postcard with a picture of the piece donated by the Klein family. Finshing my tour through the floor were some of his earlier drawings and paintings hung along the inside wall of the exhibition. In the free center space were some very interesting pots from his broken pot series that were made with manganese in the clay. They had this wonderful color and texture to them, almost like a black granite appearance but spotted and rough textured. Now that we're almost back to where I started there were some old wooden platters or trays that he did early in his career that were hung on the wall that reminded him of the marketplace as a child. Just across from those were the free standing sculptures I mentioned that were on the right when I first started the exhibition. They were made from wood and tin and some fabrics, one was a women and the other a man. The name of the women was Lady in Frenzy, and the man, Chief in Zingliwu, both made in 1999.
El Anatsui has expressed the idea that when one has only humble materials to work with, the act of bringing them together in massive quantities creates the possibility for monumentality. One of the most important elements in Anatsui’s practice is the element of chance. His work is often comprised of pieces that can be arranged in a variety of ways. He encourages the installer to participate in the work by suggesting placement or order of the final installation. If you haven't seen his works in person I suggest you do in Austin before the time has past to experience this contemporary art as well as African history of El Anatsui's symbols and myths.