Today’s Obsession: LEGO!
A few months ago I visited the Bronx Zoo with my niece. While wandering around checking out the lemurs and penguins, she spotted a gigantic giraffe—made out of LEGO. Turns out, the zoo had planted LEGO animals all through the park and made it a game for kids to find them (you got a stamp for each one you found). My niece became obsessed with finding every single LEGO animal and, I have to say, so did I. Each one was more impressive than the last (you can see them all here). My favorite was the set of flamingoes standing in a pond; hers was the gorilla.
I have since become fascinated by what people make with LEGO. My brother and I played with LEGO as kids, but our creativity went as far as making big Jenga-like towers that we’d smash with his G.I. Joe Mobile Support Vehicle. The pieces people are building now are just mind boggling; it really has become an art form. Here are some of my favorites from the past few months.
These aren’t so much about construction as reconstruction—as in, reconstructing famous photographs, artworks, and scenes from movies and books in LEGO. The art of customizing LEGO figures has really gone into high gear with some of these pieces!
- UK artist Mike Stimpson (aka Balakov) is one of the most prolific in the LEGO tableaux arena. He has constructed famous photographs such as Jeff Widener’s “The Unknown Rebel” (Tiananmen Square), Joe Rosenthal’s “Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima”, John and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In, and my favorite, Philippe Halsman’s iconic shot of Salvador Dalí, Dalí Atomicus. He has also re-created movie scenes (and invented a few of his own), the most famous of which is his Star Wars work. (Although not a recreation of anything, his series, Adventures of Lego Men, might be the most brilliant use of these little plastic guys ever.)
- Alex Eylar is a LEGO freak and a movie geek. When those two passions collide, you get this series of movie scenes in LEGO.
- Other movie buffs such as Keithcku and Craig “Lego” Lyons have taken their love of LEGO and made a series of movie posters. The one for 300 (here called 30 in honor of LEGO’s 30th anniversary) is genius.
- The Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool, England, was host to a show that I would’ve given my right arm to see. Called “Art Craziest Nation,” the show was a series of LEGO figures milling around miniature galleries of modern artworks and installations, including Damien Hirst’s Shark Tank and Catellan’s Hanging Horse. Although I wish they had created the actual artworks in LEGO, the scenes with the LEGO versions of the artists swilling champagne while checking out the art are as hilarious as they are awesome.
- Doctor Who and the weeping angels. In LEGO. Need I say more?
- Although not technically a tableau, this recreation of the Large Hadron Collider made by a post doc from the Niels Bohr Institute definitely deserves a nod. At 9,500 pieces and made completely to scale, it is impressive, indeed.
As much as I love the LEGO tableaus and the customization of those little characters, for me the real jaw-dropping “wow!” pieces are buildings rendered in LEGO. How these artists figure out how to put these things together is far beyond me.
I could spend a month of Sundays going through all of the fantastic artists I’ve found on my LEGO journey. Of course, every person I’ve mentioned here is a LEGO artist, but here are a few people who have taken LEGO to an entirely new level.
- Nathan Sawaya is a LEGO artist who really thinks outside of the brick. Sawaya has done some incredible architectural pieces and corporate commissions, but his Lego Art is absolute creativity overload. One of his most famous sculptures, Yellow, is just an amazing combination of LEGO and art. His piece entitled Blue—a LEGO man who is literally building himself—is my absolute favorite.
- Sean Kenney is another fantastic LEGO artist who has done buildings, logos, and the like, but it’s his portraits in Lego that are his calling card. Want to be immortalized in LEGO? You can commission him to do your portrait!
- Henry Lim is all about one thing: large scale. His enormous portraits of The Beatles and Audrey Hepburn are gorgeous, but the Stegosaurus is a marvel.
Last but not least is by far my favorite use of LEGO: The Brick Testament. Yes, it is the entire Bible illustrated with LEGO. Thousands of LEGO illustrate 400 stories, and it’s all done with a massive amount of whimsy and more than a touch of irreverence. The Story of Job kills me every time.
With my and my niece’s newfound obsession with LEGO, can a trip to LEGOland be far behind?