The Art of the Brick

img_3258The Art of the Brick is a global touring exhibition that uses LEGO bricks as its medium and features recreations of historic art pieces. Created by Nathan Sawaya in 2007, the exhibit also showcases original works done by Sawaya. CNN rated the exhibition as one of the world’s must-see exhibitions, currently featured at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center until Jan. 29.

Located in historic Balboa Park, the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center’s mission is to connect people of all ages with science, encouraging learning through hands-on experience. The science center includes over 100 interactive exhibits, is completely child-friendly, and is a popular weekend spot for families. The science center also features an IMAX theater, and films are incorporated into many of the exhibitions that travel to the center.

The Art of the Brick exhibition is $29 and grants admission to the regular science center and its interactive exhibits. The ticket to the exhibition also includes an IMAX film, which is optional to attend, but recommended for the full LEGO brick experience. Although LEGO bricks may seem like children’s toys, the exhibition was far from child’s play.

The exhibition opened with a short three-minute film which described Sawaya’s creative process and the history behind The Art of the Brick. Sawaya was interested in LEGO ever since he was young, and he explained that he even brought bricks with him to college at New York University. At the time, Sawaya was not pursuing LEGO art as a career, and he ended up going to law school and practicing law for a few years. It was not until he realized that his day job was unfulfilling that he decided to pursue his LEGO creation art full-time. In his introductory video, Sawaya stressed the importance of doing what makes you happy, because he said that he believes success will follow. This is a welcomed sentiment for college students looking for what comes next after graduation.

There were different sections of the exhibition, each with its own theme. The section when you walk in features art recreations from Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night, all done precisely and realistically. The recreations were instantly recognizable, and Sawaya arguably deserved praise for his attention to detail. At times, it was easy to forget that the pieces were all created from LEGO bricks because of the accuracy and detail in the sculptures.

As the exhibit continued, Sawaya explored countless different themes, and his sculptures ranged from bright red apples to menacing wall-mounted skeletons. The relaxed lighting helped the overall ambiance of the exhibit and placed focus on the sculptures rather than the gallery as a whole. Sawaya’s work also included portraits of people rendered in two-dimensional LEGO paintings, like some of his recreation pieces, but he included his own flair and more contemporary style. It was interesting to see how Sawaya incorporated his personality in his works, especially since he used LEGO bricks as his unconventional medium.

Although some fine art critics may find qualms with Sawaya’s LEGO brick medium, his exhibition presented a unique and fresh experience in the world of art galleries. The Art of the Brick is certainly not only aimed at children, and it is enjoyable to experience for people of all ages. There are hundreds of sculptures to check out, enough to entertain for an hour or so.

One small annoyance is the price of the exhibition. At $29, it seems a bit steep for the overall experience. In comparison, a ticket to the Louvre Museum in France costs €15, about $16. As expansive and renowned as the Louvre is, it seems a bit odd that The Art of the Brick costs nearly twice as much. That isn’t to take away from the fun at Sawaya’s exhibition, but it is significantly smaller and does not include original works from prolific artists like the Louvre does.

The Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and The Art of the Brick exhibition are both entertaining attractions located in Balboa Park. Sawaya’s LEGO brick exhibition is worth a look, and walking around the park afterward isn’t half bad either. The Art of the Brick is a unique experience to take in for people of all ages, and adds a new dimension to the possibilities of what can be created with LEGO.

Written by Walker Chuppe, Arts & Culture Editor