From Toy to Art

“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.
Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, Venus de Milo

Phil, your guide, cozies up to Venus de Milo.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square

An ultra-textured version of “Starry Night”

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square

A pixelated version of “Mona Lisa”

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square

Grant Wood’s farmer and wife in 3-D.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, discus thrower

Easter Island comes to Times Square.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, discus thrower

An ancient world icon meets a new world medium.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, Whistler, Mother

Mom made real.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, Munch, Scream

Screaming Lego bricks.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, Klimpt, Kiss

A kiss is still a kiss in 2-D or 3-D.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, Edward Degas

Degas’s Dancer: from bronze to plastic.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square

Caesar Augustus for the 21st century.

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.
Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, Statue of Liberty, New Yok skyline

Miss Liberty opens her heart to the world.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, peace symbol

A symbol of the 1960s.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, dinosaur

A long, long dinosaur.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, seated

A seated figure with more than a back.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, hanging around

Red Legos hanging around.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, skulls, red, yellow, blue, green

Skulls looking scary.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, sphere, cube, pyramid

Shapes and colors form ifferent heads.

Lego, Nathan Sawaya, Discovery Center, Times Square, yellow, chest

What is outside is inside.

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