Right at the time when cold winter months are coming, umamen favours us with an incredibly touching and warming brick-built version of the artwork for Bob Dylan’s 2nd album “Freewheelin”. I have no idea how he managed to enliven this handful of pieces, but the way Suze Rotolo’s figure clinges to Bob’s makes my heart melt every single time. The background is something that takes a moment to notice, but contributes to the whole.
File this under “ideas I wish I’d thought of first”. From Jeff Friesen, award-winning photographer and author of United States of LEGO: A Brick Tour of America, comes a delightful new book of LEGO dioramas paying homage to the work of enigmatic graffiti artist Banksy.
Inside its 9″ x 9″ hard cover, the very inexpensive Bricksy: Unauthorized Underground Brick Street Art features 84 carefully constructed and beautifully photographed scenes, each based on a different Banksy work. For reference purposes, thumbnails of the originals appear on every page, and are also compiled into a visual index at the back that even cites the original image sources.
Rather than merely trying to mimic Banksy’s works in LEGO, Jeff embellishes them and expands upon them to service his own unique sense of humor. It’s as though we are pulling the camera back from the original, and seeing it in the context of a whole new backstory. This definitely makes the book more appealing, although true Banksy aficionados may balk at such brazen reinterpretations.
As this gallery of images shows, many Banksy standards make an appearance – my personal favorite being the meat wagon “mobile installation” featured in the documentary Banksy Does New York. As you might expect, the scenes are all built to minifig scale, making extensive use of the rich array of collectible minifig components now at LEGO fans’ disposal (this book could not have existed 5 years ago). All the buildings and other background details are completely brick-built, with some skillful use of forced perspective. I also enjoyed the repeated appearance of a large brick-built rat!
Bricksy: Unauthorized Underground Brick Street Art is available on Amazon in both physical and digital formats. And it’s currently less than $10, so I recommend you grab a copy of this awesome picture book right now, to fill that spot on your coffee table next to the Beautiful LEGO trilogy.
Ryan H. uses rare marbled LEGO bricks as paintings in a beautifully composed art gallery scene. The clever parts usage doesn’t end there; look closely at the floor pattern, and notice the hook hands and steering wheels on the rope barriers.
LEGO is usually in the news for positive events — recently it was a tower of the stuff breaking a world record — and even when the news is bad, it’s because everyone wants some of it. But this is a different story altogether.
Chinese artist, political prisoner, and human rights activist Ai Weiwei is known for his strong stance for freedom of speech and other civil liberties in the People’s Republic of China, and this reflects in his work. In September Ai requested a bulk order of LEGO for his studio and a project the studio was working on, and was denied. He quotes the reply stating “they cannot approve the use of Legos for political works” on his Instagram account.
In September Lego refused Ai Weiwei Studio’s request for a bulk order of Legos to create artwork to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria as “they cannot approve the use of Legos for political works.” On Oct 21, a British firm formally announced that it will open a new Legoland in Shanghai as one of the many deals of the U.K.-China “Golden Era.”
A photo posted by Ai Weiwei (@aiww) on Oct 23, 2015 at 6:04am PDT
Up until that point this seems to be par for the course: The LEGO Group, a company that produces and sells toys aimed at children and teenagers, has the right to restrict sales of their products freely. It must be noted, however, that Ai could have purchased what he needed through standard retail or secondary market channels, albeit without the discount associated with a bulk order directly from the LEGO Group. This was not clear when The Gaurdian reported on the story, incorrectly stating that he was “banned” from using the product.
The article, which has since spread and lead to numerous other stories that seem to confuse key details, seems to be the root of the misconception. Strangely, the body copy of the story and the headline are contradictory, as no source is ever given for Weiwei being “banned”.
A day after the original story, The Guardian ran a follow-up which focused on Weiwei receiving a large influx of Lego donations. Again, there is no source citing Weiwei being banned, or how such an incident would be incited or enforced.
We reached out to our contacts at the Lego Group for comment, and they shared the following statement:
The LEGO Group does not comment on the dialogue we have with our customers, partners, consumers or other stakeholders. We acknowledge that LEGO bricks today are used globally by millions of fans, adults, children and artists as a creative medium to express their imagination and creativity in many different ways, including projects that are not endorsed or supported by the LEGO Group. We also respect any individuals’ right to free creative expression, and we do not censor, prohibit or ban creative use of LEGO bricks.
As a company dedicated to delivering creative play experiences to children, we refrain – on a global level – from engaging in in or endorsing the use of LEGO bricks in projects that carry a political agenda. Individuals may obtain LEGO bricks in other ways to create their LEGO projects if they so desire, but in cases where we receive requests for donations or support for projects – such as the possibility of purchasing LEGO bricks in very large quantities – and we are aware that there is a political context, we uphold our corporate policy and decline the request to access LEGO bricks directly.
Based on this additional information directly from LEGO, we can say for certain that The Guardian is incorrect in their usage of the word “ban” and “banned” in their articles, and that Ai enjoys the same freedom to purchase LEGO bricks as every other builder and “LEGO artist” in the world. He has simply been denied the ability to purchase LEGO bricks in bulk quantities at discounted prices directly from the The LEGO Group.
I was thinking when I blogged Chris McVeigh’s self-portrait the other day that it would be great if more builders took up that unique but flexible style of LEGO art. Paddy Bricksplitter accepted my unstated challenge and used nothing but LEGO in shades of black and white to build this wonderful portrait of Sir Charlie Chaplin, the wonderful Little Tramp from The Gold Rush (1923), Modern Times (1936), and one of my all-time favorite movies, The Great Dictator (1940).
Chris Maddison is participating in the current round of Iron Builder, and has integrated the special seed part into a mosaic that captures the uniqe formline style of art made by the Haida, Tlingit, Coast Salish, and many other peoples who share the broad characteristics of what is commonly called Northwest Coast culture. The red and black formlines stand out from the white backdrop, and the brick-built “wooden” frame adds to the presentation. I walk past “Northwest Art” galleries in downtown Seattle everyday, and this would look right at home on a gallery wall.
As a life-long fan of artists such as Escher and Dali, this bizarrely warped train by Korean builder Amida Na really tickled my fancy. It’s entitled Folded Space Syndrome #1 so I’m really hoping this is the first in a series (even though it is just a digital render).
Kiwi builder David Hensel (who appropriately goes by the handle Legonardo Davidy) describes his take on the Vitruvian Minifig idea as a “study in mosaic making, SNOT, minifigure proportion, and endurance – and lots of tan cheese”. And the fact that David has been noodling on this mind-boggling mosaic on-and-off for two years comes as no surprise! I’m sure the Master himself would be impressed…
LEGO Bro built nice little mosaic of the Apple logo. Whether you are a fan of the fruit or not, you have to admit that he nailed it.
Mihai Marius Mihu calls this piece the “Citadel of the Loud Curse”. If I lived anywhere near that thing, I’d be running for the hills! I don’t know which is more frightening…the gaping red mouth or the silent ash-colored, house-crushing Titan. Regardless, this is a very striking build and, like good art, it draws out a response from its viewers. Mihai is exceptionally skilled at that!