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Museum of Contemporary Art Downtown – Latest Exhibit By El Anatsui

Jun 3, 2015

Looking for something cultural to do in San Diego…. here’s one exhibit you won’t want to miss….

We recently spent the afternoon at the Museum Of Contemporary Art downtown with veteran docent Anne Simon to view Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui. This extraordinary exhibit highlights the artist’s most recent work and features 11 monumental metal wall and floor sculptures widely considered to represent the apex of El Anatsui’s career. In addition, a series of drawings illuminates the artist’s process, while wooden wall reliefs reference his extensive work in wood and display fascinating compositional relationships to the large metal pieces.

El Anatsui’s work has won worldwide acclaim for its power and splendor. He is widely celebrated for transforming discarded objects into shimmering, pliable artworks of monumental beauty. Drawing on artistic and aesthetic traditions from his birth country of Ghana, his home in Nigeria, and various Western art forms including modernist and post-modern modes of expression, Anatsui culls from his environment, both natural and man made, as a source of material and motivation.

Merging personal, local, and global concerns into his work, Anatsui has said he is inspired by the “huge piles of detritus from consumption” due to West Africa’s limited recycling technology. Cultural, economic, and social issues of colonialism, globalism, waste, and consumerism are explored under the cloak of beauty.


Docent Anne Simon explained to us that In Nigeria local distilleries produce dozens of different brands of spirits in bottles of various sizes that are recycled after use.  The artist gathers the discarded aluminum tops, seals, and labels, bends, twists, and pieces them together to transform these common objects into massive, richly colored, and luxuriously textured tapestries. Given liquor’s key history in the slave trade, these works reference earlier relationships between Europe, Africa, and the United States.

Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui is organized by the Akron Art Museum and made possible by a major grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The San Diego presentation is made possible by generous lead underwriting gifts from Dr. Paul Jacobs and Sheryl and Harvey White. Additional funding has been provided with proceeds from the 2014 Art Auction. Institutional support of MCASD is provided by the City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture and the County of San Diego Community Enhancement Fund

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