The tiny hamlet of Kinderhook, New York - just a stone's throw from the mighty Hudson River - might seem an unlikely venue for the mesmerising sculptures of the internationally celebrated artist El Anatsui. But then Chelsea dealer Jack Shainman has long believed that this setting, where he runs another gallery, The School, is just the right spot to showcase El Anatsui's compelling work.
'One reason El Anatsui's work is perfect for here is the sheer size of The School,' says Shainman, referring to his 30,000-square-foot gallery with its soaring twenty-four-foot ceilings. The building is a former school in a federal revival building on a leafy street. Just two hours from Chelsea, The School is in close proximity to The Clark Institute and Mass MoCA, as well as the Hessel Museum of Art at Bard College.
'El Anatsui: Five Decades' is a comprehensive exhibition consisting of 40 works, marking the first anniversary of Shainman's new space. El Anatsui, who was recently awarded the Venice Biennale's highest honour, the Golden Lion for Lifetime achievement, is known for his assemblages, which make up part of the exhibition. Formed from hundreds of discarded liquor bottle lids and cans, they are considered wall installations, crossing the boundaries between sculpture and tapestry. Also on view are his ceramic and manganese works and his wooden sculptures, some dating from the 1970s. El Anatsui's distinctive artistry is his ability to create an entirely new vocabulary from simple materials that have been discarded. They speak of the environment, consumption and waste.
'Beginning in the 1970s, when El Anatsui was creating pots that he broke into shards and reconstituted into sculptures, he was already addressing the notion of change and transformation,' says Chika Okeke-Agulu, who has served as the artist's assistant and taught alongside him at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka during the 70s. Now a Princeton University professor of art, Okeke-Agulu adds that El Anatsui has always seen his work as reflecting devastation and colonisation. Just as El Anatsui turned to a chainsaw as a carving tool, these early examples speak of other possibilities for his media and an entirely new approach to sculpture.
One of the most astonishing aspects of this exhibition is witnessing, up close, El Anatsui's most immense works, such as 'Tiled Flower Garden' (2012), which snakes 30 feet along the floor. Equally fascinating is the vibrancy of his vibrant palette, with its yellows, silvers and oranges.
'This gallery was a dream of mine and now I have a fitting environment to spotlight El Anatsui's monumental work,' says Shainman.
El Anatsui is known for his assemblages, such as 'Stressed World' of 2011, which is made from discarded bottle lids, cans and copper wire.
25 Broad Street
Receive our daily digest of inspiration, escapism and design stories from around the world direct to your inbox
Inside Sterling Ruby and OTW by Vans’ skatewear-inspired collaboration
American artist Sterling Ruby and OTW by Vans’ footwear collaboration was revealed in Los Angeles, backdropped by a specially constructed skate park created with PLAYLAB, INC
By Tilly Macalister-Smith Published
Nothing Phone (2a): an exclusive first look
Three years in the making, the Nothing Phone (2a) embodies the tech start-up’s ethos and aesthetic approach. We explore the genesis of the new design in an exclusive preview
By Jonathan Bell Published
Ikea and Raw Color deliver a collection of vibrant crafts to cheer up your living space
Ikea and Raw Color present ‘Tesammans’, a collection full of playful designs, vibrant textures and an eye-catching colour palette
By Yoko Choy Published
New York artist Christopher Astley showcases an alternative natural world
At Martos Gallery in New York, Christopher Astley’s paintings evoke an alternative natural world and the chaos of warfare (until 16 March 2024)
By Tianna Williams Published
The Whitney plots Harold Cohen’s artistic AI adventures
‘Harold Cohen: AARON’, at the Whitney Museum of American Art celebrates the artist’s software – the earliest AI program for artmaking – as an artwork in its own right
By Hannah Silver Published
Ludovic Nkoth’s vibrant paintings reflect on migration
Cameroon-born, New York-based Ludovic Nkoth uses acrylic paint to strike a balance between abstraction and figuration
By Ugonna-Ora Owoh Published
Sneak peek: inside Jack Shainman’s vast New York gallery
Jack Shainman’s new gallery space opens with ‘Broken Spectre’, a new film by Irish artist Richard Mosse
By Mary Cleary Published
Artists explore the meaning of home through the lens of queer and trans domesticity in New York
Group exhibition ‘Dreaming of Home’, at Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, uses a seminal Catherine Opie photograph as a springboard to explore the meaning of home today
By Hannah Silver Published
Sheila Metzner’s jewel-toned fashion photography goes on show in Los Angeles
‘Sheila Metzner: From Life’ is at the Getty Center until 18 February 2024, including her richly toned fashion photography and still lifes; the artist tells us more
By Hunter Drohojowska-Philp Published
Takashi Murakami on his monsterizing San Francisco show
Takashi Murakami tells us of pandemic-inspired creatures, eye-popping flowers, and NFTs as he explains the making of his exhibition at Asian Art Museum in San Francisco
By Pei-Ru Keh Published
How to conquer the Atomic City: the story behind U2 at the new Las Vegas Sphere
U2:UV Achtung Baby Live At Sphere redefines the 21st-century rock concert. We spoke to the band and its team about the genesis of this expansive art and music experience that marks the opening of the high-tech venue
By Jonathan Bell Published