JANUARY 4 – FEBRUARY 2, 2008
513 WEST 20TH STREET, NEW YORK, NY 10011
January 4 – February 2, 2008
Opening reception for the artist: Friday, January 4, 6–8 PM
Jack Shainman Gallery is proud to present Zebra Crossing, an exhibition of new work by El Anatsui. This exhibition has been highly anticipated since Anatsui’s critically acclaimed inclusion in the 52nd Venice Biennale. Several of his new cloth-inspired works ranging in size from five by seven feet to eight by forty feet will be on display.
Drawing on African history and cultural idioms, as well as Western art practices, Anatsui uses rigid materials to create seemingly soft and pliable cloth-like structures, combining liquor bottle tops and metal foil from bottlenecks woven together with copper wire to make large sculptural works. Anatsui works with what is at hand, always looking to his environment, both natural and manmade, as a source of inspiration and material. An astute observer of color he composes his sculptures with meticulous orchestration, managing material and color like a painter. Here Anatsui’s palette ranges from black, blue, red, yellow, purple, and green to silver, gold, white and pink; his final compositions from abstractions resembling modern paintings by the likes of Piet Mondrian to representational landscapes with appendages that extend beyond a more traditionally defined picture plane.
There is a profound distance between the shimmering opulence of the final product and the individual elements, essentially refuse, which comprise them. This transformation of discarded materials into stunning and magnificent works resembling tapestries fit for royalty, illustrates a transgressive element in Anatsui’s artistic practice. The works are at once formally striking and full of references to cultural traditions like weaving, Ghanaian kente cloth and adinkra
Anatsui’s sculptures also conjure up practical and environmental issues such as process, logistics, distribution, consumption, waste, and recycling. His ability to embrace dualities, and to engage formal, historical, and social issues at once, plants his work as firmly within the tradition of his native culture as within Western art practice. What results is a body of work that makes a lasting impression on viewers from all over the world.
El Anatsui was born in 1944 in Anyako, Ghana. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Sculpture and a Postgraduate Diploma in Art Education from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. He is Professor of Sculpture at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he has lectured since 1975. He exhibited at the 1990 and 2007 Venice Biennales and was included in the Johannesburg Biennale in 1995 as well as the Gwanju Bienniale, Gwanju, South Korea, 2004. His most recent solo exhibition Gawu has toured Europe, Asia and North America. He is included in the anthology exhibition Africa Remix, which has toured Dusseldorf, London and Paris and will travel to Tokyo and other cities in 2006/7. His work is in numerous public and private collections including: Asele Institute, The British Museum, Centre Pompidou, de Young Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum Kunst Palast, The Newark Museum, Nigeria National Art Gallery, Segataya Museum and the Smithsonian Institution. This is his first solo exhibition at the gallery. A hard cover catalogue is forthcoming.
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