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“Five Decades,” a survey exhibition of artist El Anatsui’s long and successful career, opened in Kinderhook, NY last Sunday at The Jack Shaman Gallery: The School. The event marked the first anniversary of The School, a 30,000 square foot exhibition space in a repurposed schoolhouse. Over a thousand guests attended the opening of the retrospective, where large tents offered welcomed relief from the 80-degree weather. Hudson Valley food trucks provided fare for the event.
The exhibition is a comprehensive look at Anatsui’s career, complete with pieces from as early as the ‘70s, when Anatsui first began his tenure as an art professor at the University of Nsukka in Nigeria. Anatsui is perhaps best renown for his sculptures and installation art. His preferred mediums are clay and wood, though the exhibition has a wide range of works, including paintings and the large-scale metal works for which he has gained recent acclaim. Anatsui was just recently awarded the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Venice Biennale.
The School provided a unique opportunity for Anatsui, whose work can often impose some challenges to exhibitors. With renovated 24-foot-tall ceilings, the gallery was able to provide ample space for his sculptures, including the 15-foot-tall Stressed World.
The artist was born in 1944 in Anyako, Ghana. He has often been identified with the “Nsukka group,” a 1970s group of artists associated with The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and for striving to revive the struggling practice of uli, the traditional designs of the Igbo people.
“El Antsui: Five Decades” will remain on view through September 26, at 25 Broad Street in Kinderhook, New York.