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Gravity and Grace opens at the Brooklyn Museum (slide show)

We were invited to a sneak peek of the new show of works by artist El Anatsui at the Brooklyn Museum, and even now can't wait to go see it again.

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

  • Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

    "Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum

Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

"Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum


The long-awaited show "Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui" at the Brooklyn Museum, which opens on Friday, February 8, showcases the work of Ghanaian-born El Anatsui, widely regarded as one of the world's preeminent sculptors. The Nigeria-based artist came into the international spotlight at the 2007 Biennial in Venice, and since then his star has only ascended. It comes as a bit of a surprise that the show is his first retrospective at an NYC museum—but we're quite sure it won't be his last.

El Anatsui's massive works, of which 30 are on view, are in equal measure intimate and monumental, as a result of the artist's working methods and the materials he uses, among them found objects made of wood, aluminum and other metals. His best-known works are textile-like swaths of "cloth" fashioned from flattened metal bottle caps, or the tops of tin cans, that are threaded together with copper wire—malleable forms that change shape with each new space they inhabit. Don't miss the fascinating video stations that show loops excerpted from Susan Vogal's film Anatsui at Work, or the hands-on station where kids can fashion Anatsui-esque "building blocks" out of folded paper and twist ties. (We also hear that a First Saturday fest to honor the exhibition will take place on Saturday, March 2.)

The draped wall-mounted sculptures seem almost alive, and practically implore the viewer to step closer and closer until the tiny, individual units of material reveal themselves. And then you want to step back to take in the whole of the shimmering ethereal work you've just studied once again. In addition to these stunning pieces are several fascinating free-standing sculptures, among them Peak, a mini forest of shiny, pointy cones made entirely of the tops of Peak milk cans (a brand sold in Africa), and Waste Paper Bags, a series of giant tote-like shapes fashioned out of abandonned aluminum printing sheets. Anatsui relishes the idea of giving discarded materials a new life, and kids are bound to be as inspired as their parents by the grace with which the artist pulls it off.

"Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui" is on view at the Brooklyn Museum from February 8 to August 4.


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