El Anatsui: Gravity and Grace Exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum

Man standing at the Brooklyn Museum admiring El Anatsui's Gravity and Grace exhibition of bottle cap art

It's always nice to see the under-loved (and, to be honest, too-often underwhelming), Brooklyn Museum in NYC put on a great show, and Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui is exactly that, a true crowd pleaser that's engaging, provocative, playful, joyous, sublime.

Featuring more than 30 works by the internationally acclaimed West-African artist–he was born and raised in Ghana, but today lives and works in Nsukka, Nigeria–this is El Anatsui's first solo show at a New York museum, and it is a marvel. Of color and texture. Of material and composition. Of beauty and emotion. Plus: awesome photo-ops throughout!

Man standing next to El Anatsui bottle cap art piece at the Gravity and Grace exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum

Brooklyn Museum filled with people looking at the many different pieces of El Anatsui bottle cap and recycled trash art

El Anatsui's Bottle Cap Art

El Anatsui's signature aesthetic is take bits of metal trash–most often recycled bottle caps from beverages with names like Bakassi and Dark Sailor, Ebeano and Top Squad, which he gets from a distillery in Nsukka–and weave them into lovely, lush-looking "tapestries". From a distance, and even up close, these huge wall hangings look like fabric, and the effect is jarring and quite spectacular as you jump mentally from "soft, pretty, familiar" to "sharp, garbage-y, exotic". Many of the pieces here at the Brooklyn Museum El Anatsui show are site-specific, created especially for this exhibition, and they are all breathtaking, both for their inherent beauty and for the extraordinary effort that went into their creation, as there must be thousands of bottle caps in each.  

El Anatsui's bottle cap art hanging up at the Brooklyn Museum

El Anatsui floor structures made out of aluminum cans and other recycled trash at the Brooklyn Museum

El Anatsui Art at Brooklyn Museum

El Antusui also builds floor sculptures from rusting aluminum cans, and there are three terrific ones here at the Brooklyn Museum show. If his wall hangings clearly evoke tapestries, these brought to mind something more organic, like abandoned ant colonies, or tree roots. There are several cool giant bags as well, made from recycled papers and plastic, at the entrance to the exhibition's main gallery. And there are about ten smaller wooden pieces on display at Gravity and Grace, which we liked just as much as the far more monumental-in-size works. El Anatsui: Gravity and Grace will be at the Brooklyn Museum through the summer, and we definitely recommend getting on the 2 or 3 train, which lets you off right at the museum's doorstep, and checking it out.   

Colorfully painting wood piece created by El Anatsui hanging on the wall of the Brooklyn Museum

El Anatsui: Gravity and Grace at the Brooklyn Museum

El Anatsui's Gravity and Grace will be at the Brooklyn Museum through August 4. The Brooklyn Museum is located in Prospect Heights, on Eastern Parkway, right near Prospect Park and next door to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, and is open Wednesday through Sunday at 11:00 a.m., closing at 6:00 on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and at 10:00 p.m. on Thursdays. For more information about El Anatsui: Gravity and Grace at the Brooklyn Museum, please see the museum's website, here. 

Close-up image of the bottle cap tapestries at El Anatsui's Gravity and Grace exhibition

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