RED: The LEGO® Brick Sculpture of Nathan Sawaya

Agora Gallery is delighted to announce the eagerly-anticipated return of Nathan Sawaya, the artist who creates his remarkable sculptures entirely out of LEGO bricks. This new exhibition, RED, represents a new shift in the career of the internationally famous Sawaya, presenting his most recent works which enter fresh and original territory for both himself and the medium.

We were delighted to be able to interview Nathan personally about his career in an unusual art medium, and about the new turn his work has taken. If you are curious to know what he sees as the quintessential LEGO brick, what he loves about LEGO or how his work fits into the fine art world, read on!

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LEGO art

Many readers will remember the exhibitions at Agora Gallery featuring the remarkable LEGO creations of Nathan Sawaya – and many people who saw his work then will have been caught by his imaginative, wonderful works and will have followed his career since then. Nathan’s work is deeply thought-provoking in its own right, and deals with serious issues and ideas, presented to a willing audience in an accessible and appealing manner. Yet he is not the only artist to have discovered the power of this unusual medium – in recent years, LEGO sculptures and works have been appearing in various unexpected places. The video below focuses on a number of LEGO artists, who are bringing a whole new level of meaning to a tool which is increasingly taking its place as a powerful art medium.

Sean Kennedy is another LEGO artist. He creates portraits of individuals as well as sculptures both large and small and has composed commission pieces for museums, galleries, celebrities and companies. He had an exhibition at the Philadelphia Zoo in 2010 which featured models of endangered animals, made of course from LEGO bricks, which were positioned in lifelike poses and places in the zoo itself. This project had considerable natural charm, and of course delighted zoo visitors both young and old, but it also made a serious point, calling attention to the problem of endangered animals around the world.

Both Nathan Sawaya and Sean Kennedy use LEGO as a medium for which many viewers have affection, and which draws the audience back in some way to memories of childhood hours spent playing with LEGO. This has a force all of its own, but particularly so when contrasted with the message and subject matter that the artists embrace. Sawaya, for example, broaches topics such as war and identity, which are things that most of us only begin to think about as we grow up, and which we associate with our adult lives.

Sawaya and Kennedy belong to a select group of individuals who bear the title of ‘LEGO Certified Professionals.’ These professionals are of various  nationalities and live in many different places, but they all share a love of LEGO and what it can be used to create. They are not themselves part of the LEGO Group, but are recognized in this official way as special partners whose enthusiasm for and creativity in this unusual building material set them apart.

What is particularly interesting is that the love of LEGO in art has developed at a time when complex technologies are increasingly playing a role in the creation and presentation of art. The use of a simple children’s toy feels almost radical when contrasted with this technological trend, and it is interesting to take a step back and consider where the love of LEGO comes from, and why we as viewers seem to connect with its use in artwork.

Part of its attraction may be precisely its simplicity. The blocks are in themselves unremarkable, and are a feature of our lives from an early age. The spare, smooth lines that develop when LEGO is used in building models is intriguing as well as visually pleasing. Moreover, the contrast between the clean edges and the rough surfaces on top of and underneath every block have interesting textual results, particularly when a sculpture is viewed both from a distance and up close.

The idea that each piece fits together to form part of the whole is also important, allowing a sense of wholeness and encouraging viewers to consider wider themes. Nathan Sawaya occasionally works off this feature to create works that are in some way ‘broken’ or unfinished in themselves, despite the wholeness to which each piece contributes.

There is also, of course, the simple fact that LEGO blocks are inextricably linked in our minds to the act of creation. Most of us can probably remember playing with them at some point, creating little buildings or roads with the brightly colored pieces. There is something appropriate about the idea that this relic from childhood should be able to find a way into our adult lives, and bring us messages that perhaps other mediums would not be able to. As Picasso said, ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist after growing up.’ Perhaps the LEGO artists have found a new way of doing this, and of helping us as their audience reconnect with the selves who once played with children’s toys.

Do your childhood experiences have an impact on your work? Let us know in the comments!

Exhibition: Brick by Brick: the LEGO Brick sculpture of Nathan Sawaya

A new exhibition is coming to Agora Gallery’s new gallery space – Brick by Brick: the LEGO Brick sculpture of Nathan Sawaya. It will run from March 23, 2010 until April 13, 2010, with the opening reception taking place from 6pm until 8pm on Thursday, March 25, 2010. The reception is free entry to all comers, so come along and take a look!

We are very excited to announce the opening of this unique show, as it will be the very first solo exhibition in New York to feature only works made up of Lego bricks.

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