Monday, April 27, 2015

El Anatsui in Princeton

On April 23 I had the great pleasure of attending a special program at Princeton University where the great contemporary artist El Anatsui (born in Ghana, based since 1975 in Nigeria) was interviewed by Chika Okeke-Agulu, professor of art and archaeology in the African American Studies program at Princeton. The university’s art museum had just acquired one of his stunningly beautiful wall sculptures—one that is particularly mosaic-like—and the artist was in town for the installation and for a brief artist-in-residence visit to engage with students and faculty.  The April 23rd  program was open to the public.  What a thrill for me to ask him a couple of questions from the audience!

The 2014 piece is titled Another Place, and like all his recent work, is made of found aluminum from bottle caps and collars repurposed from used alcoholic beverage containers, the cut/folded/crushed/crumpled pieces joined by copper wire to create a shimmering, softly draped metallic tapestry. The curator describes this particular work as reminiscent of an aerial map of Africa. It hangs in a place of honor as you enter the museum.

After the public program I had an opportunity to meet the artist in person and convey my admiration for his work and the deep resonance I—a mosaic artist—felt with his process. I even mentioned that I had presented a talk and documentary film on his work three years ago at the annual conference of the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA).  

How fortunate I feel that from this day forward we in Princeton have an El Anatsui right here in our hometown.

Speaking to El Anatsui at the Princeton University Art Museum.
You can see Another Place (2014) hanging behind him in the top photo.