I seem to have found myself on Brick Lane three Saturdays in a row. Not deliberately of course, but things like that seem to happen when you live in London; in this wide expanse of city you keep returning to the same familiar spots without thinking. After walking past the ‘Art of the Brick’ three times I finally decided to check it out. I almost went to the exhibition when it toured through Brussels, but got a little distracted by endless waffles. As to why it took me three attempts to finally go, well… in a city with incredible art for free I really resent paying for an exhibition. But hey ho, of to the Art of the Brick we go.
The Art of the Brick is the work of artist Nathan Sawaya, he creates unique sculptures entirely out of lego. The promotional image for the exhibition is the bust of a man, pulling open his chest to allow the lego bricks inside to tumble out – very cool. Based on this I had high hopes for the rest of the sculptures.
The exhibition starts with a video about the artist, and all the countries that the exhibition had toured to. I liked that it explained the artists process/rational, he essentially is trying to create art out of everyday objects. What I didn’t like however was that it was a bit too much of a pat on the back, almost prepping you that this was a fantastic exhibition because of all the places it had been. Like a much hyped movie it was bound to leave me underwhelmed by the art.
And underwhelmed I was. The problem in a nutshell was Logo Land. Its not that the sculptures lacked creativity or imagination its that I could see a massive corporation creating the same thing in a planning meeting for a childrens theme park. Giant pencil drawing a line… tick, recreation of a classic sculpture… tick, dinosaur skeleton… tick. The ones I got the most joy out of were where the lego bricks had been used to create a pointalist version of a couple of my favorite paintings (The Scream, Starry Night). But again, this was just something that appealed to me rather than what I consider to be a great work of art.
The families at the exhibition however clearly had a different opinion. The kids were going nuts for the lego sculptures, they were sparking off something that I couldn’t appreciate. Maybe this was the cheaper version of going to Lego Land, one where the kids would not be distracted by sugar or rides. They saw art that was within their reach, here were sculptures in an exhibition that they had a chance of creating at home.
The closest the Art of the Brick came to art I could appreciate was in the Human Condition section where the sculpture on the promo materials was located. In these the fact that they were created out of lego added to the sculpture; showing suffering, redemption or love out of bricks somehow felt like an ironic take on our modern cookie cutter lives.
The Art of the Brick might just be the perfect compromise for families. The children will go nuts to be able to see something they play with elevated on an artistic pedestal. The adults will at least get to walk round an art gallery without wining disinterested children asking when they can get a babychino. And adults might even find a couple of sculptures that they love.