A monumental wall hanging by African artist El Anatsuimade by converting found materials into a unique medium somewhere between sculpture and paintinghas been acquired by the Brooklyn Museum
in a purchase from the Jack Shainman Gallery. Black Block (2010) is currently on view at the Museum through August 4 in the critically acclaimed exhibition Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui; it consists of two panels, each measuring 207 1/2 by 135 7/8 inches.
The large-scale work reveals Anatsui testing the aesthetic limits of his invented medium. In this monochrome yet dramatic work, he explores the monumentality and meditativeness of a single color, while simultaneously introducing subtle variations, thus activating an otherwise uniform surface with small, intentional surprises.
El Anatsui combines diverse aesthetic traditions from his birth country, Ghana; his longtime home of Nsukka, Nigeria; and the global history of abstraction. Working with discarded metal bottle caps collected from a liquor distillery in Nsukka, he drastically modifies this unremarkable everyday material cutting, flattening, twisting, and connecting small individual pieces of metal in order to create vast, undulating sheets. Pieced together and hung, these sheets become the visually arresting, colorful, textured wall pieces for which Anatsui is so well known. They have no specific orientation, and take on radically new shapes with each installation. Working this way, in what he calls the non-fixed form, is emblematic of Anatsuis desire for his work to remain dynamic and participate in the ever-changing conditions of life.
El Anatsui earned a B.A. in art and a postgraduate diploma in art education from the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, in 1969. From 1975 to 2005, he was a professor in the Fine and Applied Arts Department at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. His work has been exhibited around the world and is included in many renowned collections. He lives and works in Nsukka, Nigeria.