“The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.”
—Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
I question if the Lego exhibit, “The Art of the Brick,” at the Discovery Center in Times Square washes away the dust from our souls. It is however an eye-opening example of one man’s creative repurposing of a common, everyday item in surprising and delightful ways.
This return engagement for Nathan Sawaya’s astonishing works combines the wonder of a childhood toy with serious creative effort.
Mr. Sawaya’s recreations of iconic paintings although recognizable, appear as blurred, out-of-focus versions. His take on Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” is an excellent example. I see this fuzzy view of things as a fitting representation of today’s visual world. Modern society uses mobile-phone photographs to obsessively document everyday life. All too often these mobile-phone photos are blurry disappointments.
He does much better recreating three-dimensional icons; my favorite was an Easter Island head, the bulkiest work in the exhibit. He is also on more solid ground when he turns well-known, two-dimensional works, Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” and James McNeil Whistler’s “Arrangement in Grey and Black No.1” (a.k.a. “Whistler’s Mother”) for example, into 3-D works.
As amusing as the Lego version of Vincent van Gogh’s “Starry Night” the real attraction for me was Mr. Sawaya’s own creations. Most of these showed a whimsy that delighted me. My favorite was Lady Liberty opening her I-Love-NY heart to the world. Placing this work before a photo backdrop of New York’s skyline, complete with the finished reconstructed World Trade Center complex, sent an upbeat message.
I recommend seeing “The Art of the Brick” to appreciate what can be done when one puts one’s mind to a task.