Bass Museum of Art opens Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui

The Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach presents Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui on view April 11–August 10, 2014.

Gravity and Grace highlights internationally renowned artist El Anatsui’s most recent work and features twelve monumental metal wall and floor sculptures that are widely considered to represent the apex of his career. In addition, a series of drawings illuminate the artist’s process, while wooden wall reliefs reference his extensive work in other materials and exhibit relationships to the large metal pieces.

Throughout his career, Anatsui has experimented with a variety of media including wood, ceramics and paint. In recent years, he has focused on working with discarded metal materials, for which he is best known today, to create pieces that erase the traditional distinction between painting and sculpture.

Drawing on the artistic and aesthetic traditions of his birthplace in Ghana, his home in Nigeria and various Western art forms and movements, Anatsui’s work merges personal, local and global concerns.

Anatsui’s metal sheet works consist of discarded aluminum bottle tops, seals and labels produced by local distilleries. These objects are bent, twisted and pieced together to be transformed into massive, richly colored and luxuriously textured tapestries.

Anatsui has spoken of how such materials “become loaded—’charged’ is maybe the right word—with a lot of meaning…the various states that they’ve gone through or the various uses that they’ve been put to—this is all written upon them.”

As the exhibition travels, each installation will be slightly different. The artist encourages museum staff to sculpt each metal piece as they install it. These works will therefore be condensed, expanded or reshaped to fit the space and sensibility of each institution.

Gravity and Grace invites visitors to explore the development of works by Anatsui, whose art features a rare combination of beauty, communal process and deep metaphorical and poetic meaning. Just as the work is greater than the sum of its thousands of parts, its meaning transcends the artist’s particular cultural influences to embody something universal.

About the artist
Born in 1944 in Ghana, El Anatsui has lived and worked in Nigeria since 1978. He earned a Bachelor’s degree from the College of Art and a Postgraduate diploma in Art Education from the University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana. In 2008, in order to focus on his studio work, he resigned from his longtime position as a Professor of Art at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, where he began teaching in 1975.

Anatsui’s work is included in numerous public and private collections including the British Museum; Centre Georges Pompidou; the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Akron Art Museum, among many others. He participated in the Venice Biennale in 1990 and again in 2007, when his large metal works made a huge impact, catapulting Anatsui to worldwide prominence after forty years of working as an artist. A traveling retrospective, El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You About Africa, was organized by the Museum for African Art in 2010.

Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui is organized by Ellen Rudolph, former Interim Chief Curator of the Akron Art Museum, in collaboration with the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. The exhibition and national tour of Gravity and Grace is organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible by a major grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The exhibition is funded in part by a generous grant from National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by Christie’s and Citizens Interested in Arts.

Bass Museum of Art
2100 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139