Last-Minute Art Getaways: El Anatsui at Jack Shainman’s The School

The perfect summer day trip destination.

El Anatsui, Stressed World.

It’s hard to believe that Jack Shainman Gallery’s charming exhibition space inside a refurbished schoolhouse in Kinderhook, New York, is just one year old. This summer, The School celebrated its birthday by installing several of El Anatsui’s majestic tapestries and sculptures, which will remain on view until September.

Draped with lush works by the Ghanian artist, who is also a recent recipient of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement award at the Venice Biennale, the 30,000-square-foot space truly shines.

Anatsui is certainly best known for his shimmering, textural tapestries, which he creates using bottle caps, discarded aluminum bands, and wire. These works occupy an aesthetic gray area between sculpture and painting, and are always pinned slightly differently in each installation, providing an experience that can’t be replicated.

El Anatsui, Open(ing) Market

El Anatsui, Open(ing) Market (2004).
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

But the show at The School also puts a spotlight on some of the lesser-known aspects of Anatsui’s career, including his floor sculptures, photography, and use of mediums like wood, clay, and paper. Drawing on works from the 1970s to 2014, it encompassing five decades of the artist’s life within 40 pieces. Despite their variations in form, almost all of them deal in some way with concerns about the environment and the cycle of consumption and waste. Many also provide a portal into contemporary African life.

In November 2014, Anatsui held two concurrent solo shows at Jack Shainman Gallery and Mnuchin Gallery and in 2013, a solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum. During a video interview, Anatsui told artnet News that the wall hangings that have made him so famous were not initially conceived to be wall hangings at all. “The first one I made was right in the middle of the studio, hung from the ceiling,” he said. “What I’m trying to do now is to create them in such a way that you don’t need to put them on the wall. [I want to] make them thick and heavy so that they can stand on their own.”

El Anatsui, Ascension

El Anatsui, Ascension (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

El Anatsui, Peak Project

El Anatsui, Peak Project (1999). 
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

El Anatsui, installation view.

El Anatsui, installation view.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

El Anatsui, Womb of Time

El Anatsui, Womb of Time (2014).
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

El Anatsui, installation view.

El Anatsui, installation view.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

El Anatsui, Peak Project

El Anatsui, Peak Project (1999). 
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

El Anatsui, Lady in Frenzy

El Anatsui, Lady in Frenzy (1999).  
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery.

“El Anatsui: Five Decades” will be on display at Jack Shainman’s The School in Kinderhook, NY until September 26, 2015.


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