Africa In Austin
In a collaborative effort between The Blanton Museum of Art and the Museum for African Art in New York City, the much-anticipated El Anatsui retrospective, When I Last Wrote to You about Africa, opens this weekend at The Blanton.
The renowned Nigerian-born artist is coming to Austin to celebrate the opening of the exhibition and discuss his life's work with Lisa Binder from the Museum for African Art and Dr. Moyosore Okediji from the Department of Art and Art History at The University of Texas. This lecture is part of new Blanton Director Simone Wicha's commitment to engage dialogue between art experts both on and off campus.
There will definitely be plenty to say about Anatsui's work both during and after Saturday's lecture. The artist, who lives and works in Ghana, is internationally recognized as one of the most compelling artists of his generation. Using found objects from his environment, Anatsui reconstitutes their purpose into breathtaking works of art, impressive in both their scope and their ingenuity.
In the 1970s, Anatsui began using broken and reassembled ceramic fragments to represent the shattering of ancient African histories and cultures.
In the 1970s, Anatsui began using broken and reassembled ceramic fragments to represent the shattering of ancient African histories and cultures. Later, he employed burned, carved and etched wood scraps showing the recombined signs and symbols of cultures throughout Africa, a statement on the scars left behind by European colonialism.
Most recently, Anatsui has created woven tapestries made from discarded local liquor bottle caps. The flattened metal pieces are manipulated in such a delicate manner that they resemble fabric when assembled with thousands of like materials. The effect is a massive shimmering tapestry that billows and folds like a swath of impossible fabric.
Visitors to the Blanton have already experienced one of Anatsui's pieces, an untitled work that has been on display in the upstairs collection gallery since 2009. This looming wall installation is a perfect representation of his magnitude. During a personal tour of the Museum, Director Wicha explained that Anatsui allows the galleries to drape his tapestries how they would prefer, highlighting the dramatic movement and unusual materials.
According to Wicha, Anatsui's pieces encourage discussion on recycling, sustainability and the current state of African art. “I think this work speaks to many conversations, and I think it will be an exciting event for Austin. I really hope people love it as much as I do,” says Wicha.
This week, Austinites will be able to experience El Anatsui's work firsthand when his When I Last Wrote to You about Africa retrospective opens this week at the Blanton. Museum members will get a sneak preview of the exhibition on Saturday before and after the lecture. Everyone else will have to wait until Sunday to see the collection in its full glory.