Holding Brick

Unaware of the spectacle we were in for, we stood beside the open bar sampling pass-throughs of tuna tartare on crostinis and rice balls topped with chorizo and bacon. But before long, we were treated to an announcement by James Sanna, president of Discovery Times Square, who introduced the artist of the hour — Nathan Sawaya. A former corporate attorney, Sawaya has dedicated the last several years of his life to the creation of art implementing Legos. His artwork is the first of its kind, utilizing the world-famous Danish toys for the production of large-scale, representational sculpture. 

“I challenge you to take five minutes out of your day to create something, anything, even if it’s drawing a doodle, or finger painting with your kids, or putting two Lego bricks together,” Sawaya urged. 

And create something he does — Legomania! Sawaya has amassed an astounding body of work, having created dozens of originals and recreated dozens of canonized masterpieces of the art world covering nearly every tradition and medium. Oil paintings, marble statues, abstract, non-representational, all Lego-tized like magic. But unlike magic, there is no illusion regarding Sawaya’s commitment to his craft. Some of his bigger undertakings, such as a 75,000+ Lego recreation of a Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton (below), took an entire summer to complete.

T-RexAs remarkable as the scope of his work is his accuracy in depicting many of the greatest artworks of the world. From the ancient Venus of Willendorf to Vermeer’s “Girl with a Pearl Earring,” to Rembrandt’s most famous “Self-Portrait,” to the classical “Kritios Boy” sculpture, to Da Vinci’s iconic “Mona Lisa.” Each tiny Lego brick precisely placed to ensure the piece will evoke an immediate recognition of its parent work. Other Lego parts are utilized for particular accoutrements such as the chaos-stricken eyes of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream,” and the bewildering eyes of the female figure in Sawaya’s recreated “Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1,” by Whistler, popularly known as “Whistler’s Mother.” This piece presented both a recreation and reinterpretation of the work, as Sawaya sculpted Whistler’s iconic mother as a free-standing figure, rather than a two-dimensional part of a framed representation as with many of the other recreated works.

From Hokusai’s “The Wave,” to Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” to Michaelangelo’s “David,” the expansive exhibit stands as both an homage to the diversity of artistic subjects and a testament to Sawaya’s practice.

Mona Lisa

In the final sections of the exhibit, Sawaya’s personal creations were spotlighted, including provocative sculptures and installations that integrated both symbolic and mimetic elements. A surrealistic piece called “Sing” presented human faces sculpted into musical notes. One may think that Sawaya is somehow subsidized by Lego or commissioned to create under their auspices. But Sawaya insists that he buys his Legos just like anyone else, and any Lego brick or piece he uses can be purchased by anyone. He promotes a message of unity, suggesting that anyone, anywhere can create the same type of artworks that he does.  

Overall, “The Art of the Brick” is both expansive and mind-expanding, calling to attention the shifting nature of artistic expression as time goes on. With this exhibit, Sawaya’s work helps us ‘Lego’ of our pre-conceived notions about art and expand our awareness of the infinite possibilities for creation.




For further information and to buy tickets, visit Discovery Times Square at: http://www.discoverytsx.com/