Arguably the most significant African artist working today, El Anatsui gained international acclaim with two dazzling displays at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and has continued to be admired for his massive, recycled-bottle-cap tapestries ever since. Now, on top of a monograph published by Prestel, a gigantic High Line installation, and two surveys coming this year to the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum for African Art, the prolific sculptor presents 11 large, shimmering pieces in this, his third solo show at Jack Shainman in five years.
His method of cutting and wiring together bottle tops into luxuriant hangings is used here in a variety of abstract yet metaphorical ways. The outer edges of They Finally Broke the Pot of Wisdom glisten from the circular insides of numerous caps, while its enigmatic center boasts a lacelike mix of overlapping colors, making it seem transparent. The lively Bukpa Layout resembles an aerial view of an island, complete with populated areas, farmland and mountains. Basin recalls a seaside town one moment and a fishing net the next, thanks to its network of crumpled, chromatic bits of scrap metal. From works that spill down the walls to others that sprout from the floor, Anatsui shapes lowly found materials into spirited, astonishing forms.—Paul Laster