In His Largest LEGO Work To Date, Ai Weiwei Recreates One of Claude Monet’s Most Famous Paintings
Known for incorporating recognizable, everyday objects into monumental sculptures, Ai Weiwei (previously) has created acclaimed installations using bicycles, life vests, and seeds and flowers made of porcelain that often challenge political issues such as the social unrest of his native China, the global refugee crisis, and themes of liberty and freedom of speech. Since 2014, he has utilized LEGO as a medium but not without some controversy along the way due to the political nature of his work. Now, Ai has completed his largest LEGO piece to date in a recreation of “Water Lilies,” one of French Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s most iconic artworks.
Monet’s Water Lilies series was inspired by the artist’s garden in Giverny, France, featuring a foot bridge over a pond teeming with wildlife. This idyllic setting was the design and creation of Monet himself, who at the turn of the 20th century had the nearby River Epte partially diverted in order to bring his vision to life. Ai challenges our perceptions of natural beauty and reality, replacing brush strokes with plastic bricks redolent of digital pixels, using a more saturated color palette, and embedding shadows that evoke a hint of unease.
Both accessible and recognizable, LEGO allows Ai to broach difficult topics in a format that is more approachable. On the right-hand side, he has placed a dark portal depicting the door to the underground dugout in Xinjiang Province where he and his father, Ai Qing, lived in forced exile in the 1960s.
Composed of nearly 650,000 pieces in 22 colors, “Water Lilies #1” is part of Ai Weiwei: Making Sense, the artist’s forthcoming exhibition at The Design Museum. which runs April 7 through July 30 in London. Follow more updates on Instagram.
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In ‘Lost Tablets,’ Jan van Schaik Constructs Deteriorating Architectural Sculptures with LEGO
“The first one I made, I made by accident, like a three-dimensional doodle,” says Melbourne-based architect and artist Jan van Schaik about the sculpture that founded his Lost Tablets series. Now encompassing 89 works, the ongoing project continues to reflect this intuitive, imaginative impulse as it scales principles of monumental design into dozens of models that stand about ten inches tall.
Built with secondhand LEGO, each monochromatic construction encapsulates questions of legacy and decay. Remnants like writing, dirt, and divots imprinted in the plastic bricks from rough play are visible in van Schaik’s sculptures, which recreate aspects of “the city caves of Matera, the churches of Borromini, the arches of the Doge’s palace in Venice, the buttresses of Gothic cathedrals, and the blue ceilings of the Shah Mosque of Isfahan” as deteriorating structures. Varied in style and aesthetic, the walls contain gaping, window-like arcs, exposed mechanical gadgets, and uneven bricks that appear on the verge of collapse. Each is named after a ghost ship, or a vessel found at sea with no crew members on board, imbuing the pieces with a sense of mystery about their origins and existence.
A third-generation architect, van Schaik has long been interested in “the ways that cities recombine themselves” and how new constructions often reuse materials, objects, and foundations and embed local history within the contemporary landscape. “Cities are always building themselves on top of themselves,” he tells Colossal, referencing the ancient walls of the acropolis of Athens as an early example. His use of LEGO mimics this tradition and captures the universality of the material and subject matter. “Architecture is for everybody, and everybody is aware of it, whether they intend to be or not, whether they’re conscious of it or not,” the artist shares. “That’s why (the works) have a strange familiarity.”
This year, van Schaik plans to complete the Lost Tablets series, which will total 100 constructions, and publish another book to explore the latter half of the collection. You can see the pieces on view at two spaces in the state of Victoria, Boom Gallery in Newtown and NAP in Mildura, this spring and at The Other Art Fair in Melbourne in March. Until then, find more on the Lost Tablets site and Instagram. (via Yatzer)
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More Than 500,000 Black LEGO Structure Ekow Nimako’s Vast Afrofuturistic Cityscapes
Through vast environments constructed with hundreds of thousands of black LEGO, Ghanaian-Canadian artist Ekow Nimako envisions an Afrofuturistic landscape brimming with strength, power, and liberation. Sprawling metropolises nest small buildings, regal towers, and fantastical details like the unhinged jaw of an enormous snake in their midst, structuring the architectural realms around legacies of myth and optimism.
Nimako’s current project, Building Black Civilizations: Journey of 2000 Ships, encapsulates this Afrofuturistic vision and invokes the mysterious story of Mansa Abu Bakr II, Mali’s ruler who’s said to have sailed from the coast of Africa in the 14th Century and never returned. The Atlantic voyage is one possible example of pre-Columbian contact and the founding narrative behind the artist’s latest sculptures.
Part of the ongoing Building Black series, this new collection comprises upwards of 500,000 sleek, black LEGO built into speculative cityscapes and figures. Nimako, who is currently based in Toronto, collaborated with studio assistants Janeesa Lewis-Nimako, Karen Osagie, and Keisha Agyemang to construct the utopian works, which are on view now at Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Each topography requires more than 600 hours of build time and contains an Adinkra, a symbol traditionally representing an aphoristic concept. Nimako shares that the emblems “are meant to connect the successive medieval empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhai across the centuries to the present, while providing a proverbial and moral centre for each sculptural narrative.”
Visit Dunlop Art Gallery before January 10, 2023, to see the incredible detail of Journey of 2000 Ships up close, and find more from Nimako on Instagram.
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LEGO Letterpress: Bird Species from The Netherlands Are Printed with Everyone’s Favorite Toy Bricks
Back in 2017, designer Roy Scholten and collaborator Martijn van der Blom brought LEGO into their letterpress workshops for elementary school students. Small and accessible to most, the ubiquitous plastic bricks were easier and faster to use than traditional lead type and were familiar creative tools for many of the children. Around the same time, the pair also developed a series of LEGO dinosaur prints in subtle gradients, an early collection that inspired Scholten’s ongoing project using the unusual material.
From his studio in Hilversum, Scholten forms dozens of winged creatures found in The Netherlands as part of 50 Birds. The 6 x 6-inch designs adeptly arrange the rigid blocks into beaks and round bellies with small lines of white left between. He describes his process:
Creating a design starts with establishing the outline, the total shape, and posture of the bird in question. Once that puzzle is solved, that construction is then divided up again into three to six different “lego stamps”, one for each color. Each stamp gets printed in the right order so that the combination results in the finished design.
Scholten releases 20 editions of each work, and keep an eye on Instagram for his upcoming renditions of the kingfisher, jay, dunnock, blue-headed wagtail, and the odd duck. If you’re in the area, he also offers weekly letterpress and monoprinting workshops at Grafisch Atelier Hilversum. You also might enjoy these LEGO typeface studies. (via Present&Correct)
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Typeface Studies by Designer Craig Ward Recreate Fonts and Iconic Logos in LEGO
LEGO are the (literal) building blocks behind an array of creative endeavors—we’ve featured dozens on Colossal over the years from Ekow Nimako’s elaborate world-building series to Jumpei Mitsui’s sculptural recreation of Hokusai’s “The Great Wave off Kanagawa”—and are put to another inventive use in Craig Ward’s ongoing Brik Font project.
While playing with his children last fall, the New York-based designer realized the plastic pieces could be an interesting analog complement to the brand identities he spends his days working on. “I’ve always enjoyed the restrictions of modular type design, and I’m surprised it took me this long to put the two things together,” he tells Colossal. He then began shaping the bricks into ubiquitous typefaces like Helvetica and Garamond and physical renditions of digital relics.
This sparked a full-scale project involving dozens of typographic studies: a scroll through the Brik Font Instagram reveals single letters, throwback video game logos, and references to anti-aliased words like the pixelated “ok” shown above. The project already has led to collaborations with Apple and a knitwear brand, and Ward is in the process of preparing a book on the idea. He’s also released printables on Etsy and prints on Society6. (via Kottke)
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Elaborate Designs by Mitsuru Nikaido Transform Animals and Insects into Complex LEGO Robots
Kurashiki-based builder Mitsuru Nikaido reimagines marine life, insects, and land animals as mechanical, robot-like characters built entirely with LEGO. Using his signature palette of gray and white bricks and unique parts, Nikaido creates spring-loaded limbs for walruses, a gecko tail capable of swinging toward its body, and spiders that appear like they could scurry away on hinged legs. The semi-articulate specimens shown here are just a few of the designer’s elaborate mecha sculptures, more of which you can find on Flickr and Instagram. (via Steampunk Tendencies)
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