Some artists use paint, others bronze, others use clay, but Nathan Sawaya a.k.a. ''The Brick Artist'' uses a childhood staple – LEGO building blocks to create awe-inspiring sculptures. For the exhibition titled In Pieces, which was presented by Avant Gallery at the Openhouse Gallery in New York, these remarkable children’s building blocks are transformed into sculptures depicting everyday moments further reflected in Dean West’s modern photography. The results are truly spectacular as Sawaya, who worked closely with West, makes the viewer wonder whether or not the sculptures are actually sculpted from LEGO blocks.
Bringing LEGO blocks into the art gallery is definitely not something new, but New York-based artist/sculptor Nathan Sawaya does it so well, and in such a fashion through his collaboration with award-winning Australian photographer Dean West, that this project has definitely piqued our attention. The collaboration of the two artists creates a hyper-realism imagery project which aims at projecting ideas about society, culture and nature, but above all them, identity. The artists prominently portray identity through a highly stylized representation of contemporary life; where identity as a cultural creation, has been profoundly manipulated and commercialized. Moreover, Sawaya’s incorporation of the unique LEGO sculpture is a key element to the series' plot and aesthetic appeal.
''Identity as a cultural creation has been heavily commercialized and manipulated. We wanted to prominently portray this by mashing up our artistic styles and mediums into a highly stylized representation of contemporary life. The integration of Nathan’s unique sculptures adds an innovative and compelling element to the narrative and aesthetic of the collection.''
The two artists collaborated closely on every element of the project for years – from the sculptures to travelling as the hyper-realistic images were captured throughout North America in far flung locations such as California, Nevada, New York, Toronto and Utah. The story making and the sculptures where carefully incorporated into the selected scenes, while thepixelated LEGO block sculptures were assimilated into the story telling setting. Sawaya built the featured LEGO sculptures piece by piece – a rather meticulous process of sculpting, where the LEGO sculptures induce the viewer to deconstruct each tableau which is reminiscent of the aesthetic of the American Postcard in both style and content, thus exposing elements of the construction of cultural identity itself.
The series of images by West have been color graded with pastels shades of warm yellows and pale blues to achieve the aforementioned American Postcard effect. Lonely individuals are captured in frighteningly empty minimalist scenes, where a sense of abandonment prevails. As they contemplate the scenes they are depicted in that combine loneliness and desertion, a sense of distorted identity which culture, society, or even we, ourselves, have imprinted on our minds over the years, evolves. looking more closely, the images then reveal the painstaking, brick by brick, layer-by-layer process which signifies the direct process involved with digital photography today with clear references to pixilation and technology.
A blend of the arts, photography and sculpture, where visually spectacular two-dimensional images correspond and compliment three-dimensional LEGO sculptures, the In Pieces art exhibition will be part of Nathan Sawaya's touring show, The Art of the Brick and will be presented in Redding, California - Turtle Bay Exploration Park and Museum - from May 14, 2013 to September 2, 2013.