States Of Being

Five Decades

May 17 – Sep 26, 2015
25 Broad Street Kinderhook, NY 12106
El Anatsui

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Press Release


Five Decades

May 17 – September 26, 2015

Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to celebrate the first anniversary of The School with a solo exhibition of work by El Anatsui, who was just awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, the Venice Biennale’s highest honor. Five Decades is a comprehensive survey spanning the last fifty years of Anatsui’s celebrated career, from compositions in painting, wood, and clay, to the magnificent metal works for which he is renowned.

The earliest work in the exhibition dates from the late 1970s when Anatsui began his tenure as a professor of art at the University of Nsukka, Nigeria. Selected clay sculptures from The Broken Pots series, 1977, line the perimeter gallery. While the goal of much pottery is utilitarian, these cracked and chipped ceramic and manganese vessels deny their usability. They are broken and reconfigured, much in the way that individual remembrances can be reconstructed to resurrect collective history. In Chamber of Memory, Anatsui references traditional Nigerian terracotta, and fashions tiny pockets inside the skull-like form to convey the object as a site of lasting historical and cultural memory. Placed on pedestals, the series demonstrates even a small fragment can have tremendous resonance.

Sculptures in wood dominate much of Anatsui’s artistic output from the 1980s and 90s. Works from this period, such as Assorted Seeds II, 1989, with their heavy intaglio lines and subtle gradations in color, find kin in the bold-banded acrylic paintings and etchings from the same time. Later forays in wood incorporate intricate saw marks (Fan, 1995) and flashes of colorful paint (Old Cloth Series, 1993).

The tension between fragility and resilience inherent in the medium of clay, and the radical formal properties of the wood work, come full circle in the majestic metal wall-hangings for which Anatsui is best known. Meticulously assembled from discarded aluminum often sourced from liquor bottles, the recycled materials coalesce in exquisite constellations that track postcolonial exchange and global abstract traditions. Stressed World, 2011 is a quintessential example: delicate yet monumental. Hovering between sculpture and painting, the metal constructions defy categorization and have solidified Anatsui’s status as a groundbreaking visual artist of international critical acclaim.

El Anatsui was born in Ghana and currently lives and works between Ghana and Nigeria. Current solo exhibitions include Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, at the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, from March 5 – June 28, 2015. This exhibition was organized and previously on view at the Akron Art Museum, Ohio, Brooklyn Museum, New York, the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa and the Bass Museum of Art in Miami, Florida. Anatsui has been featured in international exhibitions, including the Venice Biennale (1990 and 2007) and the Paris Triennial (2012). Recent large scale public installations include Broken Bridge II, commissioned by High Line Art and presented by Friends of the High Line (2012-2013), and Tsiatsia – Searching for Connection, which was installed on the façade of the Royal Academy of Arts in London in 2013.

Anatsui is included in numerous public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Pompidou, Paris, France; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California; the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Washington; the Akron Art Museum, Ohio; St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri; Museum Kunstpalast, Dusseldorf; the Setagaya Museum, Tokyo, and the British Museum, London, England.

Enrique Martínez Celaya's two-part exhibition Empires: Sea andEmpires: Land, opens September 10th at both gallery locations, and will remain on view through October 24, 2015.

The School is open on Saturdays from 11 am to 5 pm. For additional information and photographic material please contact the gallery at

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25 Broad Street, Kinderhook, NY 12106
tel. +1 518-758-1628 fax. +1 212 645 8316
Gallery hours:Saturdays from 11am-5pm
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