El Anatsui

We went to see the marvelous El Anatsui show at the Brooklyn Museum a couple months ago. The exhibition closes on 18 August so I thought it a good time to share some photos. I was also listening to a TED talk by Murray Gell-Mann this afternoon, as well as an interview he did with my friend, the brilliant and charming Mary-Charlotte Domandi at KSFR in Santa Fe, which raised a connection with El Anatsui's work.

Gell-Mann is very interested in beauty in physics, and he talked about emergence––an instance where a quality is evident in something that is not contained in its constituent parts, like consciousness from brain chemistry and physiology, or wetness from the right combination of hydrogen and oxygen. It's kind of magical in that the emergent quality in most cases could in no way be inferred by looking at the ingredients it springs from.

Created from the most modest means––bottle caps, foil wrappers, and similar detritus––the first impression of emergence in El Anatsui's work could be the bald economic conversion of wringing beauty from bar waste. It continues as you confront the staggering scale of the work made with minute elements. Beyond that are multiple associative threads: atomic, natural phenomena, fabric and pattern, complexity through repetition of simple components, the ephemeral, transcendence.

If you can stop in your efforts will be rewarded.