On Wednesday March 27, 2013, Art Ready met as a large group for the first time in almost two months to take a trip to the Brooklyn Museum. Usually on Wednesdays the students do not meet at Smack Mellon anymore because that is the day they meet up with their mentors. This Wednesday was a special occasion because all of the Art Ready students were on Spring Break. We saw the exhibit Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui.
Our tour kicked off with an introduction to our tour guide Shanua, who is an intern educator at the Brooklyn Museum. She gave each person a stool that we were allowed to sit on during our visit to the museum, which excited the students. She gave us background information about El Anatsui, who is a contemporary artist from Nigeria.
Upon entering this exhibit, eyes widened and jaws dropped as we walked toward his 2010 installation Gli (Wall). We all took a seat in front of one of his aluminum “walls.” Our tour guide explained to us that although anyone who sees this would assume that the walls were made using recycled material, the truth is they weren’t. Anatsui never made it known how he collected all of this aluminum. This piece of art included many different kinds of aluminum, but in particular bottle caps were used repeatedly. When we looked closely at the wall, we could see different words across the top. Anatsui used different kinds of bottle caps because he wanted each bottle cap to have its own identity. When people look at the bottle caps, they know that each came from a different bottle.
Our tour guide told us, as we looked at two additional installations in this exhibit, that Anatsui has 34 studio assistants to help him put together his ideas. They work in groups to create units of the larger artworks that can take up to a day per unit to make. When looking at his Ozone Layer installation from 2010, I began to understand why 34 people are necessary. Ozone Layer was 165 3/8 high x 212 5/8 in wide. I found it really interesting that Anatsui allows the curators to hang his artwork however they think looks best. For example, in this piece there are fans behind it. Anatsui never meant for there to be fans behind it. The Brooklyn Museum curator had done it because a Tokyo museum had done the same when El Anatsui’s work was on display there.
I believe that this exhibit helped me understand the mindset of this artist. Anatsui comes up with these grand ideas that he has others put together for him because he is more interested in getting more of his pieces into the world rather than taking years to create one installation by himself.
Post by Dennis Metoyer, Exploring the Arts high school intern