This weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry to see Nathan Sawaya’s “Art Of The Brick” installation. Sawaya works in a unique medium that appeals to the young, and young at heart: Lego bricks. The exhibit drew in a wide audience and left you believing more firmly in the idea that art isn’t limited by a particular medium; it exists all around you if you allow yourself to open your mind to it.
The exhibit was divided into multiple sections, beginning with reconstructions of famous paintings, sculptures, and artifacts made entirely from Legos. I felt like I had stepped into an adult version of Lego Land, and it was too amazing. Beside every one of Sawaya’s Lego interpretations was a brief description and history of the original, and then an explanation from Sawaya about how he chose to interpret the piece, specific techniques he used, and the number of bricks it took to complete the piece.
Many of Sawaya’s recreations were crafted to exact (or very close) scale of the original, although in some cases this wasn’t entirely possible, due to enormity or the dimensions effecting the Lego versions ability to stand on it’s own. The detail that Sawaya was able to capture with plastic brick is incredible, from jutting angles, to softer round edges.
The next section captured various phases and interpretations of the human experience. This portion explored the greater meanings of what we as humans view as meaningful, both personally and from societal expectations, in terms of aesthetic value. It also explored uniqueness and encouraged leaving behind self-doubt. Each of the pieces in this section was created using the same color brick, instead of mixing multiple, with bright primary and secondary simple colors.
This room moved into the personal exploration of Sawaya’s own times of doubts and evaluation of self worth. While this wasn’t necessarily the most captivating section, it was the bravest. Putting your internal battles on display for the world to see couldn’t have been easy, but it was incredible to see the battle waged in Sawaya’s mind between following his passion and meeting societal expectations. The effect of conveying such darkness with a children’s toy associated with joy and creativity was powerful.
The last section I’ll share was a collaboration titled “In Pieces” with photographer, Dean West. West and Sawaya captured photos of the common American landscape incorporating Lego props subtly into the scenes. The photos hung on the walls and the pieces used in the photos were on display in the middle of the room. My favorite photo was, “Dress,” featuring a woman standing outside an old theater in a red dress made of Legos which disintegrate behind her in the cold. However my favorite Lego piece was an umbrella used in the photo, “Umbrella.” I’m still so impressed by the way Sawaya managed to create the domed of an umbrella with square and rectangular pieces.
Pieces in other sections that need some honorary mention are the Tyrannosaurus Rex constructed from 80,020 Lego bricks, and perhaps one of Sawaya’s most recognizable pieces called “Yellow.” Constructed from 11,014 yellow Lego bricks, I loved what it conveyed about opening oneself to the world, and spilling out your soul.
The Art Of The Brick is an incredible gallery for all to enjoy. Kids loved it, because well Legos, and adults could appreciate the craftsmanship and message Sawaya intended to convey through his pieces. It made me step back and really admire the creativity of the mind and the potential it has to transform ordinary little fragments into works of art that can make big statements.