New DMNS exhibition toys with the concept of LEGO as art
The “The Art of the Brick” exhibit has traveled to over 20 countries, 100 cities and six continents, but LEGO artist Nathan Sawaya says he always wanted to have an exhibit at his current stop, the Denver Museum. of Nature and Science.
“This is the first museum I have visited,” Sawaya said at a recent press conference. “My grandparents brought me here when I was very, very young. It’s very special to have an exhibition here now.
The exhibition features more than 100 works created by Sawaya spanning his entire career, including original works and representations of historical art. Each is built entirely from LEGO bricks.
Sawaya said her love affair with interlocking plastic blocks began, as most, during childhood. Growing up, he turned to the creative arts, but was not confident in his work, so he pursued a career as a lawyer instead.
“I was coming home and needed a creative outlet and that’s where I discovered LEGO bricks again,” he said. “I started to experiment with them, to create new pieces.”
He later created a website with a virtual gallery of his LEGO masterpieces. When the site crashed due to too many visits, Sawaya realized that maybe there was something more to it. He therefore abandoned the career of law to devote himself to art full time.
“A lot of people told me I was crazy,” he said. “That I was making a mistake… This negativity really shocked me. I felt like people were trying to hold me back.
This experience inspired the play “Grasp”. The work presents the frame of a man with several pairs of hands holding him back.
So why LEGOs? Sawaya says it’s partly nostalgia, but there’s also a specific aesthetic he gravitates towards.
“I love the look of LEGO,” he says. “I love the right angles, those distinct lines. When you see my sculptures up close, you will see all these right angles, these sharp angles. But then you walk away from it, all those corners blend into curves. It’s kind of the magic of using LEGO bricks. “
It is also a medium accessible and accessible to so many people.
“Everyone broke a brick together,” Sawaya said. “And that’s the idea, to bring people into this exhibit and hopefully inspire them.”
It’s about getting people to think about math and engineering in new ways as well. That’s what made the idea a natural fit for a science-driven museum, museum educator Keelin McCarthy said.
“Science and art are not opposed,” said McCarthy. “They’re not even different enough to be opposed in any way. These are two methods of interacting and learning about the world around us and about ourselves. Art takes planning, thought, and a lot of trial and error – just like science. “
Much of the engineering went into some of these parts, Sawaya said. In particular his sculpture of a Tyrannosaurus rex.
Creating the huge beast was sometimes “staggering,” Sawaya said, adding that it took a lot of trial and error. Eventually, he used towers underneath to support the dinosaur’s massive body on top of its tiny legs. Once done, he added wires to hold it for display and removed the towers, which – although made from LEGO – were “unsightly.” The sculpture is one of the few that breaks down into sections for ease of transportation and installation.
Anyone who has built with LEGOs knows the potential of working hours that crumble with the slightest bump. To make the works a bit more stable, Sawaya glues each piece as he works. It helps with potential issues, but when the vision changes or he makes a miscalculation, it requires the painstaking process of chiseling bricks that are sometimes several days old.
“It can be a very heartbreaking moment, but it’s part of the process,” he said. “(This is) going into these projects with patience. It is not something that will happen overnight. Sometimes it takes days, weeks and months to complete a project. “
Some of Sawaya’s most famous pieces are based on the greatest works of art in history, including “Venus de Milo”, “Starry Night” by Van Gogh and “The Scream” by Munch.
But “The Art of the Brick” also focuses on original works.
Sawaya will debut his new piece, “The Big Blue Swimmer,” as part of the exhibition. The sculpture represents a swimmer emerging from a sea of blue LEGOs. The entire room contains 120,000 bricks. In her Los Angeles studio, Sawaya has a stock of over 10 million LEGO pieces, all lined up along the walls in clear plastic boxes and sorted by shape and color.
“It’s like stepping into a rainbow,” Sawaya said. His goal is to elevate the LEGO so that others see him like him. At the start of “My Boy 2” – a sculpture of an anguished figure carrying a limp body – a woman began to cry in the gallery.
“She didn’t see it as a LEGO toy,” he said. “It was a work of art and she reacted to it.”
“The Art of the Brick” is on display June 25 through January 24, 2021 (tickets are free with general admission purchase through Labor Day) at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.