The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 22 May 2012
Category: Features
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You may not know the name unless you're particularly a LEGO fan but you'll definitely know the work of Nathan Sawaya, the artist who makes the huge, imaginative, modern-art sculptures and art pieces out of LEGO pieces. Sixty-eight of his sculptures were recently on display in Portland and here's a showcase of what visitors saw.

The exhibition The Art Of The Brick, which showcases much of Nathan's work, has been touring the US for years (and it's also currently in Australia in Adelaide). I was lucky enough to catch the exhibition during its last few days at the Oregon Museum Of Science And Industry (OMSI) in Portland in the US and I spent nearly an hour photographing it in order to write this post, as visitors were free to take photographs - the only request was that they not touch the sculptures.

The collection comprises everything from harrowing emotional pieces to abstract art, pop art, and playful designs. The room was kept quite dark, with spotlights illuminating each piece, which really brought the colours to the forefront in specific pieces, and emphasised the three-dimensional nature of the sculptures. A handful of very large works were encased in glass, which lessened the visual impact and made them difficult to photograph due to reflections (though it made me appreciate how much wasn't enclosed). However, this may have been to prevent visitors from knocking them over while giving them 360-degree viewing access to some particularly remarkable pieces.

Here are all 68 sculptures that were presented in the exhibition. While a photo cannot capture the experience of seeing these amazing pieces in person I did my best to photograph details as well as the full sculptures to give you a sense of what the artworks are like and how they are built. Hopefully it'll spark an idea for your next creation.

The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Frustration (26x37 inches) [ more details ]

This piece was right at the entrance next to a short information board about Nathan Sawaya and I believe it is a self portrait of the artist.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Hand (31x54x37 inches) [ more details ]

Complete with painted fingernails (and possibly the only useful use of pink LEGO blocks I've ever seen), the giant Hand greeted visitors as they entered The Art Of The Brick. It was housed in a glass case, hence the reflections. Most of the sculptures were not, which enabled visitors to get some really great photographs of the pieces.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Blue Facemask, Red Facemask, Yellow Facemask

These three striking, brightly coloured faces commanded visitor's attention as they walked into the exhibition area to the point that they may not even have noticed Hand.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Yellow Facemask (38x32x16 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Blue Facemask (48x40x18 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Rushmore (25x59x30 inches; February 2009) [ more details ]

US presidents George Washington, Thomas jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln immortalised in LEGO bricks.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Lonely Night (60x9 inches)

This simple piece (with a rather depressing name) was one of my favourites as it's something that anyone can build at home - you don't need any special LEGO-building talent, just the correct bricks.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (42x42x15 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Yellow (35x13x28 inches) [ more details ]

One of Nathan's most famous pieces.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: X-Ray (54x25x10 inches)

This sculpture is made entirely of bricks that were donated to Nathan. It's interesting to note LEGO's many-decades-long adherence to quality control in these types of sculptures (there were four comprising donated bricks in the exhibition) - it is one of LEGO's rules that bricks from any set and manufactured in any year need to be able to snap together perfectly. This is nanometer-level manufacturing precision. Let's hope it continues now that an increasing number of bricks are, sadly, being manufactured in China (from inferior plastic).



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Pop-Up Book (43x52x30 inches; 10 820 bricks; December 2009) [ more details ]

Pop-Up Book is based on a poem that Nathan wrote in 1994 about a princess in a boat in a moat who's in love with a prince in a castle. (Click here to read the poem.) He built the sculpture in December 2009 to commemorate the passing of Waldo H Hunt, a prolific pop-up-book publisher, the month before.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Stairway (38x40x15 inches; 5 115 bricks)

This is another sculpture that was built from donated bricks.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Crayons (37x4x4 inches each)

There are 11 Crayons sculptures in red, brown, black, grey, white, yellow, lime green, green, blue, dark blue, and orange in front.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Crayons (37x4x4 inches each)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (20x40x12 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Building Red (23x16x15 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Think! (26x42x22 inches) [ more details ]

The head contains a collection of LEGO bricks. Different versions of Think! exist - I have seen photographs (link above) with a blue LEGO man dragging the key to the head while a red one looks up at the head in surprise (or perhaps wonder?) - but the message remains the same.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: A section of the exhibition



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Dark Despair (32x28x17 inches) and My Boy



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Balancing (45x15x15 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Self (also known as The Courage Within) (60x18x11 inches) [ more details ]

This piece was labelled "Self" at the exhibition but elsewhere it has always been titled The Courage Within. There was no explanation of the name change.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Peace By Pieces (30x30x4 inches)

Another of the sculptures built with donated pieces. According to a note next to it there are only three places where bricks of the same colour are touching. (Visitors were encouraged to find them. One was two white bricks on the outer edge on the left. Another appeared to be two red bricks at the front near the bottom.)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Disintegration (35x32x6 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Mask (29x71x24 inches) [ more details ]

Mask was one of the sculptures housed in a cabinet so it was very difficult to photograph it up close due to reflections on the glass.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Hundred Dollar Bill (15x38 inches; July 2007) [ more details ] and Aloha Pencil (72x56x15 inches) [ related sculpture ]



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Details of Hundred Dollar Bill



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (18x13x10 inches) [ related sculpture ]



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (20x10x10 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: The Box (12x13x20 inches; January 2008) [ more details ]



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: The Box and Pawn (20x10x10 inches) [ more details ]

Pawn is one of two chess pieces (see the other below) that Nathan created that, if placed in a certain way, are a nod to the cover of Breaking Dawn from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. They were separated at the exhibition, however.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Skulls (74x54x3 inches) [ more details ]

This eye-catching grouping of four sculptures (each is 34x24x3 inches), collectively titled Skulls, dominated the back wall of the exhibition. They were created for Halloween a few years ago.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Skulls



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Queen (32x14x14 inches) [ more details ]

Queen is the other chess piece that Nathan built inspired by the cover of Breaking Dawn from Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. Pawn is a few images above.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Knot (18x11x14 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Blackwhite (45x15x11 inches)

Due to the lighting in the room and the colour of Blackwhite it was very difficult to photograph but, as with many of the sculptures in the room, the story is in the art's shadow as much as it is in the sculpture.

(When you've looked at all the LEGO in this post you might want to scroll through the photographs a second time to focus just on the shadows the sculptures cast.)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Crowd (18x17x37 inches) [ more details ] from two perspectives

This very clever piece told a different tale depending on your viewing angle. From the sides and above it looks like an intricate group of people but stand further back and look at it at eye level and a hidden piece of art emerges. It was inspired by New York City's pedestrians.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Crowd from the front, almost at eye level

A picture of the eye was projected on the floor where people could stand to see it correctly if they looked at it from eye level to complete the optical illusion - the sculpture's colours matched exactly and the crowd comprising it vanished. This photograph, of course, isn't quite taken from that perspective.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Crowd



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: (unknown)

This sculpture, of a fist punching through (or out of) the Earth, wasn't labelled and I have been unable to find a reference to it online.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Ideas (18x28x16 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Ideas and Stop, Look And Live (roughly 38x13x7 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Hanging On The Edge (roughly 36x24x13 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Solar System (65x32x32 inches; 22 940 bricks; September 2008) [ more details ]

Solar System was another sculpture that was encased. The following note appeared next to it:

"This representation of our solar system has the sun and planets stacked in proper order. Also, I am aware that the planets are not actually piled upon one each other [sic]; this is an artistic representation. I am an artist, not a scientist. And on that note: Pluto will always be a planet to me, no matter what those international Astronomical Union snobs say".



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Solar System

Jupiter and the inner planets. Even though they comprise LEGO bricks Nathan's sculptures are very fragile because the bricks can be taken apart (or, in certain gravity defying instances such as this, they may not hold). Therefore he glues every piece together using glue he's developed for the task, which means that if he makes a mistake he may have to use a chisel to correct it.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (45x45 inches) and Untitled (45x45 inches)

These two portraits are variations on the same source image. On the left only yellow, orange, and black bricks have been used to create a two-dimensional portrait (see the detail shots below). On the right black, green, blue, brown, dark grey, light grey, beige, light blue, pink, orange, and yellow bricks have been used (only red is missing) to create detail that is raised above the white background to create a three-dimensional portrait (see the detail shots below).



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Untitled



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Untitled



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Green (70x27x15 inches) [ more details ]



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Kiss (27x21x20 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (42x30 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Gray (45x45x35 inches) [ more details ]

Gray is an imposing piece. The photographs can't really capture the experience of viewing it in person, though they do help to show the workmanship and detail (below).



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Gray



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Gray

Gray photographed from a slightly different perspective to show extra detail.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (24x29x15 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Untitled



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Blue Sky (32x39x17 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Puddle (22x43x15 inches) and Gray Cat (18x7x30 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Puddle



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Puddle and Gray Cat



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Cracked (32x33x15 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: A different perspective and detail of Cracked



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: The Writer (27x18x8 inches)

Nathan makes sketches of his pieces before he starts work on the LEGO building but, unfortunately, the only example they showed was a sketch of this work reprinted on an information board that described how he has devised special graph paper to help him with the planning of each piece.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Shocking Self-Portrait (38x30 inches) [ more details ]



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Shocking Self-Portrait



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Courtney Yellow (30x45 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Courtney Yellow



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Red Portrait (34x18 inches) [ related sculpture ]

Red Portrait is a two-dimensional portrait of Nathan's sculpture Red.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: A view of the exhibition



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (45x45 inches) [ related (smaller) sculpture ]



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Untitled



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Hands (39x25x22 inches) [ more details ]



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Detail of Hands



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Untitled (57x19x13 inches; 6 942 bricks)

This is the final sculpture in the exhibition that was created using donated pieces.



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Womb (22x31x19 inches) [ more details ]



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: Pointing (83x23x19 inches)



The Art Of The Brick: 68 LEGO Sculptures By Nathan Sawaya

Above: One last look

"The fundamental purpose of my art is to captivate people for as long as I can keep their attention. I strive to create artwork that is interesting and that is unlike anything they have seen before." -- Nathan Sawaya

Tags: #arts_and_culture, #lego





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