Take your childhood Lego creations, magnify them into life-size human figures, and you’ll have Nathan Sawaya’s Park People installation.
For more than a decade, the corporate-lawyer-turned-artist has sculpted life from thousands of plastic bricks to form monochromatic human replicas, six of which can be found lounging and relaxing on ordinary Houston park benches.
“I find the human form to be the most intriguing subject matter when sculpting out of Lego bricks,” Sawaya says. “It allows me to inject emotion and fluidity into the rigid plastic toy…Like so much in life, it is about a matter of perspective: up close the sculptures are right angles and small rectangles, but change your perspective, add some distance, and the corners blend into curves.”
The accessibility and familiarity of Legos inspired Sawaya to use the bricks as his medium. “By using a child’s toy as the medium, audiences of all ages and backgrounds can relate to the works,” he says. “I’ve found that families who may have never been to an art gallery are drawn to my art exhibitions because of that familiarity and affinity with the toy.”
The Houston version of the installation, currently on display at the Acre at 1200 Smith St. before moving on to 2 Houston Center at 909 Fannin St. next month, took Sawaya several months to construct as he individually glued together thousands of Lego bricks. He wants the sculptures to be interactive, just as your childhood Legos once were, even if they can’t be pulled apart.
“The viewer is encouraged to sit with the art, to feel it and even to converse with it,” he says. “These life-size figures are there to keep people company. They are there to brighten a family portrait. Or, just be a new friend for social media. They are there to be a confidant, and, they will never reveal any secrets.”
By now, the Lego humans have popped up in cities including San Diego, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. Park People even graced President Obama’s 2016 South by South Lawn, a festival hosted—you guessed it—on the White House’s south lawn.
Wherever the hunks of plastic travel next, Sawaya just hopes they inspire someone to make art of their own.
“Creating art makes you happier. Creating art makes you smarter. Creating art makes you healthier,” Sawaya says. “I want to inspire people to make art, so that they make a better world. Lofty? Sure, I know. But why not?”
Free. 1200 Smith St. (thru August 10) and 909 Fannin St. (Aug. 13–24).