BY TAMMY SCILEPPI
“Leggo my Lego!”
That’s what some highly competitive Lego fans may be saying when they show off their extreme building skills at the New York Hall of Science this fall and winter.
The Art of the Brick, the world’s largest exhibition of Lego art – now on display at NYSCI through Jan. 26, 2020 – offers an exciting new interactive zone called “Science of the Brick,” where kids and grownups can get creative with different Lego brick building challenges and games, while enjoying a free play area.
The collection features contemporary artist Nathan Sawaya’s 100-plus art forms, created from over 1 million little Lego bricks. Take a gander at his incredibly imaginative original works, as well as re-imagined versions of some of the world’s most iconic masterpieces, such as Michelangelo’s “David,” Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” and Da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.”
“As an artist, I want to elevate this simple childhood toy to a place it has never been before: into the fine art galleries and museums,” said the Los Angeles-based Lego addict, who has more than 10 million bricks (all sorted by shape and color) in his art studio.
“After spending 22 years in New York City, I am so excited to bring The Art of the Brick to NYSCI. It is a perfect match since the Lego art has aspects of both art and science (especially engineering), that goes into a lot of the larger works of art.”
Sawaya also conjured up a 20-foot Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton – comprised of 80,000-plus Lego bricks – that has taken over the exhibit.
“Seeing Nathan Sawaya’s creations up close is an irresistible experience. We expect visitors to be surprised, delighted and inspired by what they see,” said Dan Wempa, the chief operating officer at NYSCI.
He added: “Everyone has had an experience with Lego bricks in one way or another. Seeing how things piece together and then taking them apart fosters engineering skills. And the open-ended nature of Lego bricks helps people explore their creativity. The Art of the Brick is sure to inspire Lego fans of all ages to pick up some Lego bricks and start creating.”
And don’t miss fan favorite, “Yellow,” a life-size sculpture of a man ripping his chest open with thousands of yellow Lego bricks cascading from the cavity. “Yellow” has gained pop culture fame, appearing on fashion labels, album covers and even in Lady Gaga’s music video “G.U.Y.”
Another must-see: a gallery showcasing an innovative multimedia collection of Lego brick-infused photography, produced in tandem with award-winning photographer Dean West.
In some ways, Sawaya’s “obsession” with spatial perfection, drives his unique ability to transform simple Lego pieces into thought-provoking sculptures, elevating the toy to the realm of contemporary art.
During a recent interview, he provided some interesting insight into his artistic wizardry.
So why are Lego so cool?
“They let me create anything I can imagine. They are a great medium for art because I can use them to build countless ideas,” Sawaya said. “I appreciate the cleanliness of the brick. The right angles. The distinct lines. Up close, the shape of the brick is distinctive with sharp corners. But from a distance, those right angles and distinct lines change to curves. That is what drew me to the brick.”
After practicing corporate law in NYC, Sawaya changed course when the Lego bug bit him.
“When I came home at night, I would need a creative outlet. Some nights I would sculpt. One day, I challenged myself to sculpt out of this toy from my childhood: Lego bricks. I started doing large-scale sculptures. It felt good after a long day of negotiating contracts to build something with my hands,” he said.
Sawaya said his creative process starts with an idea.
“Inspiration can come from many places,” he said. “Fortunately, having multiple exhibitions touring the globe, I get to travel a lot. I am often meeting new people, visiting new locations and experiencing different cultures. I use all of this for inspiration,” he continued.
While he’s working, the artist actually glues together individual pieces. “That means if I make a mistake, I have to use a hammer and chisel to chisel apart the glued bricks,” he explained. “It can be heartbreaking. You definitely have to have a lot of patience for this job.”
Sawaya enjoys seeing people’s reactions to artwork created from something that they can relate to, he said.
“The Art of the Brick takes Lego somewhere you wouldn’t expect and shows you things you have never seen before,” he added. “The goal with this collection of art is to demonstrate the potential of imagination and the power of creativity.”
Entry to the exhibition costs $7 per person, plus NYSCI admission. Museum members can enter for free. For more info, visit www.nysci.org.
After viewing The Art of the Brick, visitors who wish to continue to create with Lego bricks, can participate in one of the many Lego-themed activities and workshops offered by the museum. For full list of events, visit: www.nysci.org/events/week.