Friday, October 12, 2012

El Anatsui
Born in Ghana and a professor at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka since 1975, the history, tradition, and breath of West Africa is an interest of Anatsui and an influence in his work.  This being said, Anatsui's passion comes from exploring the plastic potential of his material, whether it is wood, clay, or bottle caps.  Many contemporary African artists are caught in a coercion to remain African, but unlike his peers, Anatsui has been able to make his work both universal and distinctly West African.  By using nsibidi and uli designs without an attempt at preservation, he is able to rid the techniques from history.  This allows viewers to see his work through a contemporary lens.  His most successful works are connected aluminum pieces connected with copper wire.  While the color and homage to traditional designs and textiles recall traditional West African work, the pieces are more than anything about the material.  Its familiarity relates the viewer to the work, achieving a global togetherness, rather than a sense of “otherness” demonstrated by many works employing traditional techniques.  The total form of the piece seemingly is never complete- Anatsui chooses process, concept, and chance over predetermination.   I think his pieces work best floating, as opposed to attached to a wall because it emphasizes the potential, or unseen, form.  Anatsui, however, gives no direction to display his work, challenging the curator and the work in its context.  I was able to see Man's Cloth (above) at the British Museum last winter.

No comments: