Sunday, January 27, 2008

El Anatsui at Jack Shainman

A series of works by El Anatsui on view at Jack Shainman gallery comprises of obsessive and repetitive patterns made by bottle caps and foils creating a landscape of muted glitter and billowing waves. The artist's African background is essential in interpreting these works, as they reminisce kente cloth patterns and symbols, delving into the nitty gritties of common culture and twisting it to a disorienting effect.
Each work is carefully crafted by hundreds of disposed liquor caps and the foil neck wrap. Each are punctured and connected by thin copper wires, each foil wrap either straightened our or folded into squares or twisted. The colors are exquisitely coordinated by palcing the wraps on the outside or flipped to reveal the muted silver underside. The works from afar glitter but also resemble jewelry that could use shining and cleaning. The overall effect is disorienting, as the rigid weaved pieces unite to create undulating waves of false fabric, a smoothness and regal authenticity marked by the refused and mundane.
As abstract and non-representational as they may seem, each work is titled mindful of the realities of nature, its gifts of order and beauty, its curse of death and violence. In Bleeding Takari II, straight and narrow bottle wraps reveal their backside, an army of rigid and dignified soliders lined up in discordance that result in the waves of overwhelming patterns. Random spots of red caps seem to grow out of these figures creating the blood of the work, dripping down in single file, trickling like a leaking dam into the viewer's space, transforming the silver plane into a multidimensional abstraction. The title references the political polarizing occurring in our all too real world, but a rarely heard of term/identity that face their own significant turmoil.
Overall the works in the show are beautiful in their scale, their obsessive repetition, with respect and awe for the patience of the artist, and his gift of giving meaning to objects so mundane and easily disposed of.

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