Agora Gallery is delighted to announce the eagerly-anticipated return of Nathan Sawaya, the artist who creates his remarkable sculptures entirely out of LEGO bricks. This new exhibition, RED, represents a new shift in the career of the internationally famous Sawaya, presenting his most recent works which enter fresh and original territory for both himself and the medium.
We were delighted to be able to interview Nathan personally about his career in an unusual art medium, and about the new turn his work has taken. If you are curious to know what he sees as the quintessential LEGO brick, what he loves about LEGO or how his work fits into the fine art world, read on!
So how does it feel to be a world famous LEGO sculptor?
Nathan: First let me say, I am excited to be returning to the Agora Gallery. The spring debut show enjoyed record attendance – both from curators and parents hoping to expose kids to art and culture through a medium so familiar to them. The media responded accordingly and wrote, reviewed and applauded the show. If droves of people, rave reviews and strong sales equal “world famous” … then I guess it feels good. However, my aspiration would be that the art be famous on its own without the word LEGO in the description.
Do you ever feel limited by the medium? Has there ever been something you’ve wanted to make but couldn’t?
Nathan: I don’t feel limited by the medium in terms of creation. If there are limitations it comes from the acceptance of the medium as fine art. However, as more and more people view the work, I have seen a definite increase in acceptance.
How did you originally get involved with LEGO art? What attracted you to this medium as a form of expression?
Nathan: Well, first, the bricks were there, in my house as a child growing up. Accessibility is the first and foremost important element to getting started. We didn’t have slabs of marble or coils of rebar lying around. Although if we had, imagine what I could have created!
As I grew up, I experimented with more traditional media, such as clay and wire. But I kept coming back to these rectangles that clicked together so perfectly. Then I challenged myself to fool the eye and make right angles appear to be curves and smooth lines. Then I just kept at it, kept building and perfecting my art. Eventually I opened an art studio in New York and focused on LEGO artwork full time.
When are you moving to LEGO Technic?
Nathan: LEGO molds a lot of different elements, pieces, parts, kits and other essential components that make them commercially successful at retail. However, none of those marketing elements interest me as an artist. I am attracted to the purity, simplicity and truly organic nature of the basic brick.
If there was just one piece you could have LEGO make especially for you, what would it be?
Nathan: When I was creating the 20-foot-long, life-size T-Rex skeleton for The Art of the Brick touring museum show, I could have used a 2 x 100. Would have made building that beast go by a little faster.
What makes RED, the new show coming to Agora, different to all your previous work?
Nathan: This new exhibition is the antithesis of my previous work. It is an introspective show. By working with an unconventional medium, I work within the trappings of a self-imposed prison.
Nathan: A few reasons: Red is the color associated most with strong emotion. Since so many of my works are a result of my expression of emotions, I wanted to showcase them in the strongest color. Also, I believe red is the color most commonly associated with the LEGO bricks. In my mind the quintessential LEGO brick is the 2 x 4 red brick.
Finally, I have always loved black and white with just a spot of red. I like the idea of capturing some of these sculptures with just a few bricks of red.
Where do you see yourself going from here? Any fresh surprises in store for us?
Nathan: I have already started working on two new exhibitions which I hope to debut in the next year. Keep checking my website, brickartist.com, for the latest news.
Given the uniqueness of the medium, has it been hard to get your creations accepted in the world of fine art?
Nathan: That’s a tough question to answer. I assume from you asking it that my work has indeed captured the attention of the fine art community and is on the road to acceptance.
We’re huge fans of Nathan’s creative and thought-provoking work, and we’re delighted to be hosting his second solo exhibition at Agora.
In the past, Nathan Sawaya’s works have always been notable for a measure of surrealism, with figures interacting with mirrors and climbing in and out of ‘brains’, and this is an aspect he has further developed in his more recent works, creating pieces which intrigue, bewilder and fascinate the viewer all at the same time.
The unusual medium he has chosen complements and increases the surrealistic sense we feel, as our natural associations with a beloved childhood toy are confronted and in some sense confounded by the mature, sophisticated themes with which the sculptures deal. This contrast allows a rare depth of response, as each audience member brings their own memories to bear in reacting to the works in front of them.
For the first time, in this exhibition Sawaya tackles issues of personal importance to him, his work acting as the mechanism through which he engages in introspection. This brings a powerful level of reality to his figures, which reflect both his own individual experience and emotions, and also an involvement with the world which is in a sense universal, to which we can all relate.
Symbolic significance is also an important part of this new collection, one which plays a crucial role in enabling us to understand both individual pieces and the change that has taken place in Sawaya’s approach more broadly. While there remains an initial feeling of easy and close connection with the familiar medium, the new and complex developments mean that it is even more necessary for viewers to take time to reflect and appreciate the intricate meanings and advanced themes in full measure, as they deserve.
Nathan Sawaya was not always a professional artist. He worked for years as a corporate lawyer, and only picked up LEGO as an adult when he entered a competition that encouraged participants to find a novel use for the medium. After winning the contest, he found worldwide interest in his art, which he continued to create in his spare time. Eventually his works became so highly sought after that he chose to concentrate on it entirely, giving up his corporate job and focusing on his sculpture instead. Since then his artistic career has only gone from strength to strength.
The exhibition will open on November 23rd, 2010 and will run until December 14th, 2010, with the opening reception taking place on Thursday December 2nd, 2010. Like Sawaya’s previous, extremely successful show at Agora Gallery, it will take place in Gallery II, our elegant adjacent gallery space. Nathan Sawaya’s sculptures can be purchased at the exhibition or online through Art-Mine.com. Don’t worry – they don’t require assembly!
A page from Nathan Sawaya’s coloring book for children will be available, with crayons, to keep children occupied while they are waiting to enter the exhibition. The coloring book can be purchased from the online store on his website, The Art of the Brick.
Exhibition dates: November 23, 2010 – December 14, 2010
Reception: Thursday, December 02, 2010 6-8 PM
Gallery Location: 530 West 25th St, New York City
Gallery Hours: Tues – Sat, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.