Thanks to Nathan Sawaya, Legos are no longer just toys that terrorize the bottom of your feet. Sawaya’s “Art of the Brick” exhibit, the largest display of Legos in the world, is the first to treat Legos as an artistic medium rather than a toy. And now, after sold out shows throughout the world and audiences including Lady Gaga and Bill Clinton, the exhibit has made its way to Boston. Until January 11, “The Art of the Brick” is being shown on the second floor of Faneuil Hall, and it’s worth the price of admission.
The sheer scale of the exhibit alone would be worth the cost of a ticket, as the exhibit boasts over 100 sculptures comprised of millions of Legos. But what truly makes the exhibit stand out is the mix Sawaya creates between replication and abstraction.
The first section of the exhibit focuses on famous works of art replicated through Legos. While this has been done before, Sawaya reaches an entirely new level of scale and complexity. Most replications are made to scale, and the attention to detail is startling. If you remember the struggle of building a miniature toy car as a kid, the 75,450 piece replication of the classic Easter Island Moai head will blow your mind. Other replications, such as Augusta and Michelangelo’s David (almost 40,000 pieces combined) are standouts.
The replications are awe-inspiring, but Sawaya’s own creations take the exhibit to completely new territory. For the first time, Legos are used to make contemporary, abstract art, which was Sawaya’s primary goal of the project.
“My goal with this exhibition when it first debuted in 2007 was to elevate this simple plaything to a place it has never been before,” said Sawaya in a press release.
And Sawaya achieves this emphatically. His creations are displayed in six sections, and each has a distinct feel to them. “Long, Long Ago” contains only one work: a massive dinosaur skeleton that’s made out of over 80,000 pieces. In addition, “The Human Condition” contains a life-size sculpture of a man known as “Yellow.” It’s made out of 11,000 pieces and is the most known of his works.
If you think what’s stated above is cool, but you feel like you need a more dystopian, haunting display of Legos, the last section of the exhibit, “Through the Darkness”, is perfect. “Underneath” depicts a man tearing off his face, while “Grasp” shows a man being held back by arms jutting from a wall. Prepare to be simultaneously impressed and disturbed.
At the conclusion of the exhibit, everyone has the opportunity to sign a Lego brick that Sawaya will use in an upcoming piece. The chatter amongst people at the conclusion is all the same; everyone is in awe, even the workers.
Melanie, a worker at the exhibit, offered an accurate summary of the experience.
“It blows your mind that it can be done in Lego.”
Indeed, Melanie. Indeed.