Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works
Anthony Japour looks at El Anatsui exhibition at Bass Museum
Anthony Japour (AJ) is an art collector, advisor, independent curator, and private art dealer. Japour deals in the international contemporary art movement with a focus on the Chinese Contemporary Art Movement and its relationship to the pillars of Western Contemporary Art. Since 2003, AJ has produced numerous art exhibitions and installations in Miami and South Florida through AJ Japour Gallery and now works on various art projects. AJ has served on the Fine Arts Board and the Cultural Arts Council of the City of Miami Beach.
El Anatsui (Ghanaian, b. 1944) has a stunning exhibition of his monumental works at the Bass Museum through early August 2014. During an intimate art conversation with Silvia Karman Cubina, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Bass Museum, we learned a lot more about the enigmatic artist, El Anatsui who views himself as a sculptor, though his multi-media artistic production defies categorization.
Anatsui was born and educated in Ghana at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi. His university operated under a British education model while Ghana was transitioning from a British Colony to an independent country. In 1975, the artist left Ghana for a teaching post at the University of Nigeria, where he recently retired after over 30 years of teaching.
I had the opportunity to meet and talk with the curator of the exhibition, Ellen Rudolf formerly curator at the Akron Art Museum (which organized the exhibition) and now Director of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in Beachwood Ohio. Apparently, the Akron Art Museum had owned an early work of Anatsui before the artist became international recognition. Rudolf who was friendly with the artist’s dealer, Jack Shainman of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York inquired about the possibility of doing an exhibition of Anatsui’s works and Shainman mentioned that there were monumental works sitting in storage!
Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works would have been a wonderful part of Art Basel–Miami Beach and it’s unfortunate that this incredible work comes off-season to Miami, but for those of us who live here all year, this is an exhibition not to be missed.
Anatsui’s works on display, focus for the most part on the artist’s most important creations, composed of aluminum liquor bottle caps and milk tin lids. Visually the works read as hanging mosaics in what feels distinctly akin to the gold mosaics of Gustav Klimt, the Austrian painter. In fact, while these works are indeed three-dimensional sculptures, there is a distinctly painterly quality in the color palate of reds, greens, yellow and blues used throughout. When the light hits the works in just a certain way, they shimmer like gold!
Beyond the beauty of the artworks displayed, the artist’s conceptual framework draws from his African roots and the key role liquor played in the colonization of West Africa and the slave trade. And, while the works are seductive in visual terms, one needs to be very careful as they are made of metal with sharp edges. As Rudolph explained, “I had my entire team of installers use heavy gloves and everyone was vaccinated with a Tetanus shot before handling the works”.
Anthony Japour is an art collector and art advisor. Japour lectures on the Chinese Contemporary Art Movement and its relationship to the pillars of Western Contemporary Art. For over a decade [2002-2012], Japour mounted numerous art exhibitions and installations in Miami Beach and South Florida through AJ Japour Gallery and linked these exhibitions to charity events at his home in South Beach devoted to the health, education and welfare of children. Japour has served on the Fine Arts Board and the Cultural Arts Council of the City of Miami Beach. Japour has been a contributor writing on contemporary art for SocialMiami.com since 2010.