A long but interesting read about LEGO as art. I see parallels with the arguments about whether or not video games are/can be art (see e.g. http://www.rogerebert.com/rogers-journal/video-games-can-never-be-art)
Jonathan Jones writing in the Guardian[i] on Nathan Sawaya’s recent touring exhibition The Art of the Brick[ii]says that ‘Sawaya’s Lego statues are interesting, but the people calling them art are missing the point. Lego doesn’t need to be art.’ It’s a valid position, but one that begs the response, is Jones missing the point? Jones confuses the argument as to who chooses what is culturally validated as art, with the argument as to what constitutes something as art. In one sense he is right, Lego creations don’t need to emulate the works found in galleries, but in another wrong, in that just because Lego doesn’t often look like so-called gallery art, or even if it does by way of a disguise (Jones’ position on Sawaya), this doesn’t mean it isn’t art.
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Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark
by Mike Doyle
published by No Starch Press
Disclaimer: I received a free review copy from No Starch Press.
Beautiful LEGO 2: Dark is the sequel to Mike Doyle’s Beautiful LEGO. I thoroughly enjoyed the first volume and the second is just as high quality.
When I read the first volume, I was in the presence of young children who were entranced by the pictures and made me turn through all the pages multiple times. There were images that they considered too scary. In that first book, such images were few and far between. As you can imagine from the subtitle “Dark”, there’s a lot more disturbing stuff in this volume. I wouldn’t recommend letting young children see many of the creations featured in this book.
The editor explores various meanings of the word “dark”, from the literal (models of the ocean and places that get no sunlight, or models of silhouettes), to creepy (bugs, insects), to violent/horrific (zombies, a crawling baby devil). Some of the models I would not have thought as belonging to the Dark theme (such as the trains or the buildings), but the chapter titles (i.e. “The Robber Barons” for the trains, “Greed Co., Unlimited” for the buildings) frame the models and give them a gritty and dark connotation.
I was disgusted, creeped out, and generally unnerved from many of the creations on display. I let out an audible ‘ugh’ of disgust upon seeing Hatchery (p. 3), and got shivers down my spine upon seeing Jason Ruff’s Big Hairy Spider (p. 25). The aforementioned devil baby (Junior, by Ekow Nimako, p. 194) also gave me the creeps. If the first volume asked the question, “Can LEGO be art”, then the emotions that these photos of plastic toys elicited in me is a strong argument in the affirmative.
That’s not to say that this book is unenjoyable. I was consistently impressed by the quality of the models. Some of my favorites were the Tyranosaurus rex by Ken Ito (p. 114), the wonderful depth of field and leading lines of Tim Goddard’s “Tunnel Vision” (p. 79), the incredible scaly underbelly of the sea monster in Lauchlan Toal’s “Guardian of the Emerald” (p. 92), the “Micro Bone Dragon” by Sean and Steph Mayo (p. 111). Finally, I have to recognize “The King in Yellow“, by Brian Kescenovitz (p. 318). This is a brilliant minimalist scene featuring a king on his throne; the king himself consists of maybe 4 pieces. It’s absolutely wonderful, and a far cry from some of the models that are made of thousands of pieces. The restraint required in such a model is wonderful to see.
Just as in the last book, the backgrounds of the images have been digitally replaced to have beautiful gradient backgrounds. While all of the models are terrific, there are the same problems that plagued the last book, which is that some of the photographs are of low resolution (for instance, you can see jagged pixelated edges in “Jones’s Addiction” by Cole Blaq on page 72). If the rest of the photographs and production quality weren’t of such high quality, I probably would not have noticed these issues.
Finally, some LEGO purists might be upset at the inclusion of digital renderings of some creations. I did not have any problem with it, and in fact I mistook some photographs for renderings (the hairy spider for one). There are only a handful of renderings within the 300+ pages of the book if it matters to you.
This book is a must have for LEGO fans. It does have some disturbing content in it, so I would not recommend buying it for young children.