|Just a small bit of the massive Sargent Watercolor exhibit|
|John Singer Sargent's Bedouins, 1906|
Process junkies will have a field-day here. The Brooklyn and Boston Museums went to great lengths in producing this exhibit, doing (and presenting here) advanced research into the paintings including advanced microscopy, x-ray fluorescence, infrared imaging and a lot more. There are photographic comparisons for some pieces, mini-documentaries on Sargent's processes from the types of paints used to how he accomplished what he did, and even a video presentation of a full-on attempt at recreating one of his works, going into great detail all of the things that make his watercolors special. And these are special watercolors in their broad range of style and subject matter, and this exhibit is a special one indeed, containing dozens upon dozens of his watercolors and even some of his more well-known oil paintings for good measure.
So after spending a good 90 minutes with Sargent, I managed to tear myself away to go up to the fifth floor and quickly made my way towards the Cantor and Seaver Galleries which usually have some pretty excellent exhibits. I wasn't expecting to get my mind blown but I'm pretty sure that Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui 3 left bits of my consciousness strewn across nearby Crown Heights and the Botanical Gardens.
|Al Anatsui's Peak (as displayed at the Brooklyn Museum)|
Monumental doesn't scratch the surface of what El Anatsui achieves and what is on display in this exhibit. The title piece, Gravity and Grace,4 is 12 feet high and nearly forty feet long - utilizing tens of thousands of strips of aluminum woven together with copper wire by dozens of workers over weeks into a building-sized blanket - flowing and undulating like a gossamer sheet on a wall. The more you consider his tapestries, the more detail you see and the more you realize how revolutionary this work is, how much it simply defies.
And beyond the huge blanket-like, painting-like, sculpure-like tapestries are his "sculptures" which are always tailored and tweaked by the artist to fit the space provided, or perhaps to become something different based on the artist's always changing vision. Peak, above, left me transfixed, stunned. Using woven tin lids, El Anatsui positioned the work as it's displayed at the Brooklyn Museum into an undulating, shifting series of waves, of tendrils, like something reaching out, dancing up, up, waving. That he created this using tin lids, salvaged, recycled, that the piece is never the same between locations and time, adds to its unique power.
|Gli (Wall) by El Anatsui, 2010|
Both the comprehensiveness of the Sargent retrospective and the sheer, seismic cultural importance of the El Anatsui exhibit represent sterling examples of The Brooklyn Museum's role as one of this great city's premier artistic institutions. I am going to pull out an old cliche here, for which I apologize, but you need to run, not walk to see these exhibits. (Hell, teleport if you need to.)
John Singer Sargent Watercolors is a presentation of the Brooklyn Museum and The Boston Museum of Fine Arts produced with the support of a ton of different foundations. It is on display at the Brooklyn Museum through July 28, and will be on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts October 13 through January 20. Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui is originally a production of the Akron Art Museum, presented at the Brooklyn Museum with the support of grants from the Knight Foundation, the Broad Art Foundation, and Christie's. It is on display at the Brooklyn Museum through August 4. For more, go to brooklynmuseum.org