Artworks often come with extensive installation
instructions, detailing everything from lighting and sequencing to the height
at which a painting is hung or the level at which an object meets the eye.
Ghana-born El Anatsui
, the internationally acclaimed weaver of cascading, sumptuous,
abstract draperies and wall hangings composed of can lids and bottle tops, is
an exception to the rule. Addressing ideas of personal and collective identity,
El Anatsui’s voluminous textiles espouse a freedom of form; they can be hung,
draped, folded, bunched, or rouched depending on the space and the curator’s
discretion—their malleability answering the rigid and destructive forces of
colonialism that surface as subtle references in the work.
Marking the opening of Axel Vervoordt Gallery
’s new Hong Kong space, El Anatsui presents three specially
commissioned new works whose twinkling webs of aluminum and copper wire bands
from liquor bottles undulate in streaked, abstract patterns. Titled “Theory of
”—“Se” meaning fate, fortune, and destiny—the
three works are a refreshing and contemplative take on the spectacular. “Light,
limber, and accommodating, his art takes advantage of an expanded art world
without making you feel small,” wrote
about El Anatsui’s recent
exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum
El Anatsui sees his works as providing bridges
between the past and future, conduits through which cultural history is
transmitted, his source material referencing the trans-Atlantic slave trade
(alcohol was one of the commodities Europeans brought to Africa for the
exchange of goods). Occupying a realm between painting and sculpture, the
commonplace and the precious, his captivating fabrics make a fitting display
for the inauguration of a gallery in another postcolonial locale—Hong Kong—that
intends to create a dialogue between East and West.
Se” is on view at Axel
Vervoordt Gallery, Hong Kong, May 13–August 12, 2014.