Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Art of the Brick: Pittsburgh Edition

This year I had a three-day weekend for Labor Day. On Saturday I picked up a hospital shift to help out some colleagues. Although I made a little "mad money," it meant that I was working a six-day week for the sixth week in a row (if you count Camp CAMP), and I was sorry I had given up the chance to lie on the couch all day. On Sunday old friend A.S. came to visit, so Dear Husband and I took him to church for Klondike Sunday (ice cream bars after the service!) and out to lunch with church peeps at a Peruvian cafe called La Feria. Then we piled into the car and headed for the Carnegie Science Center on the North Side.

Our goal: The Art of the Brick, a special exhibit DH and I had tried to see when we visited Tampa earlier in the year, but TAOB is a traveling exhibit, and the advertising campaign had reached Tampa well before the objects d'arte. In 2004, Nathan Sawaya (1973- ) quit corporate law to become a full-time brickartist. Wikipedia tells me, "He is the only person ever to be recognized as both a LEGO Master Builder and a LEGO Certified Professional." His first solo exhibit was in 2007, and now he has a slick website and two studios, one in Manhattan and the other in Los Angeles.


The first room of the exhibit consisted of replicas of two-dimensional artworks--mostly paintings, but also the Sistine Chapel ceiling, and a cathedral rose window made out of translucent Legos so that a spotlight shone the colored pattern on the floor. Sawaya makes a conscientious effort to sample from a variety of artistic traditions, so while DH pointed out the Gustav Klimt "The Kiss" (we saw the original on our second trip to Vienna), I gravitated toward "The Great Wave off Kanagawa" by Katsushika Hokusai (2,877 blocks).

My favorite hall was the next one, for three-dimension pieces. For instance, Degas' "Little Dancer." I chose to pose with that one, because Degas and I share a birthday (July 19).

We took turns guessing how many Legos comprised the Moai "Easter Island head": A.S. and I were way over (by a factor of 5-10); DH nearly hit the nail on the head with 75,000 (actual answer: 75,450).

My next favorite pieces were his humanoid forms. This one is "Doorway": "Excuse me. I've just got to step outside of myself for a few minutes. But don't worry, I'll be back." (6,988 blocks) The person is executed so sensitively, and then there's the "back" with a working hinged door.

This is probably the apogee of his inspirational messages: "Step-ladder." "Sometimes when you're looking for a step up, you don't have to look any further than yourself. We're all capable of more than we think." (4,054 blocks)

This one is called "Please Do Not Touch." No wait, that's the instruction to parents when they realize their small children have grabbed handfuls of loose blue Legos from the display. Actually, it's a woman swimming. You can see there were light effects with this one. Altogether the exhibit was very nicely put together, except for the model of the globe that was rotating the wrong direction (east to west).

Ladies and gentlemen, a complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, made out of Lego bricks. It took him an entire summer to build and requires 19 cables to steady it. After this was a shared gallery of digital photographs edited to include Lego objects in otherwise melancholy American landscapes made with an Australian artist.

All that standing and walking and snapping photos wore out your trusty blogger, so we stopped for a break on some benches. Upstairs A.S. and I scrabbled through shallow trays of Lego pieces to construct arched buildings before finally calling it a day. Originally DH and I had thought to use the excuse of accompanying some visiting kiddos to the exhibit, but honestly they probably would have wanted to speed through while we tried to revel in the mastery before indulging in a favorite (but not exclusively childhood) past time. I'm glad we took ourselves.

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