Jack Shainman Gallery – 513 West 20th Street, New York, New York 10011 –is pleased to present an exhibition of large-scale sculptures by internationally acclaimed artist El Anatsui through March 13, 2010. Several monumental wall sculptures made from thousands of discarded bottle tops, will be on view.
Fluidity of form is a significant quality inherent to the sculptures. As Alexi Worth from the New York Times Magazine pointed out in a recent feature on Anatsui from Spring 2009, Their most peculiar feature is that they are physically unfixed: Anatsui insists that his hangings be draped rather than hung flat, but he doesn’t insist on draping them himself, and in fact is perfectly happy to have galleries or museums do so. He has preferences — horizontal ripples are better than vertical ones — but he doesn’t regard any particular arrangement as final.
Naturally, professional curators are disconcerted by this freedom; Anatsui has little patience with their scruples. Museum people are trained not to be creative, Anatsui complains. I find that very frustrating.To Robert Storr, the provisional, shifting shape of Anatsui’s art is one of the keys to its originality. In the catalog to the coming Museum for African Art retrospective, Storr argues that Anatsui’s work is fundamentally anti-monumental: it does not stand its ground. . . . Rather it takes the shape of circumstances and so epitomizes contingency.For Storr, that is no minor innovation: Anatsui opens a new chapter in the history of sculpture.It’s possible that the appetite for contingencythat Storr praises is particularly African. Lisa Binder, the curator in charge of the Anatsui exhibition, points out that‘traditional African objects, unlike European paintings and sculpture, are often highly adaptable, designed to be reused.Anatsui’s work brings this adaptable, unfixed quality into sculptural practice — as jazz brought an African unfixednessinto Western music.
El Anatsui was born in Anyako, Ghana in 1944, and holds degrees in sculpture and art education from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. He is Professor of Sculpture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he has lectured since 1975. His work has been exhibited extensively in international solo and group exhibitions, including the 1990 and 2007 Venice Biennales, the 1995 Johannesburg Biennale, the 2004 Gwangju Biennale, Prospect.1 New Orleans in 2008, and the 2009 Sharjah Biennale. A solo show, Gawu, traveled throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. His work is in numerous public and private collections throughout the world including The British Museum, London; The Centre Pompidou, Paris; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City. Most recently, Anatsui created an installation on-site at Rice Gallery at Rice University, Houston, TX, on view through March 14.
A major retrospective of Anatsui’s work, When I Last Wrote to You About Africa, curated by Lisa Binder from the Museum for African Art, New York, begins a North American tour at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, on October 2, 2010, followed by its presentation at the Museum for African Art, New York, as one of the inaugural exhibitions at the museums new building.
This is El Anatsui’s second solo exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery. A hardcover catalogue is available.