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    Plastic bricks given creative twist in Rome exhibition

    A girl poses at a sculpture featuring a yellow man ripping his chest open at The Art of the Brick exhibition in Rome. Jin Yu / Xinhua

    A girl poses at a sculpture featuring a yellow man ripping his chest open at The Art of the Brick exhibition in Rome. Jin Yu / Xinhua

    Some 80 sculptures, over 600,000 tiny plastic bricks, and recreations of some of the world’s most iconic masterpieces.

    The Art of the Brick exhibit of American Nathan Sawaya opened in Rome on Oct 28, giving Italians a taste of how artistic inspiration can mingle with playfulness, and pour out through a most “surprising” material.

    “The exhibition captures people’s curiosity and imagination, and is being shown for the first time in Italy. So far, Rome’s audience has surely met our expectations,” Italian curator Fabio La Gioia told Xinhua.

    Visitors in the first week surpassed 16,000, and were expected to reach 20,000 by the second weekend of the opening.

    The creations of the New York-based artist were displayed at the Spazio Eventi SET Gallery over 1,200 meters, allowing each sculpture the necessary space to surprise, and maybe inspire, adults and younger ones.

    The exhibition included recreations of classic paintings such as Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt, Rembrandt’s Self Portrait, and Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

    All of them made of a material as unconventional for the art but familiar from many people’s childhoods.

    “Nathan’s work makes us forget that the sculptures are made just of Lego, irrespective of the visitor’s age,” La Gioia explains.

    “You know it, you actually see the Lego bricks, but then you are overcome by imagination and the feelings each sculpture is able to stir. This process is very typical of art.”

    Visitors can also enjoy iconic classical artworks such as Michelangelo’s David and Venus de Milo, and the Parthenon.

    Yet, a part of The Art of the Brick exhibit comprises original creations, some of them conceptual, some more ironic and playful.

    The Italian curator pointed to one of them to explain why he wanted to bring Sawaya’s work to Italians.

    “One of the sculptures shows this yellow man whose arms are stretched out to form a ladder, which is going upwards,” La Gioia says.

    The meaning of the work is that the strength to overcome life’s obstacles and achieve your goals is within us, according to the artist.

    “It is a sophisticated concept that goes far beyond the recreational nature (of a Lego sculpture); it is a reflection on the human condition, which is the best thing art can offer us.”

    Other items include a yellow man ripping his chest open, a blue man sitting with a contemplative air, and an amazing 6-meter skeleton dinosaur constructed from 80,020 Lego bricks.

    “One of my aims as an art curator is to reconnect Italy with a certain kind of artistic expression that is less common for us,” La Gioia adds.

    “Italians are very attached to their ancient cultural heritage and classical arts, and sometimes miss newer forms of artistic expression, even though they might find them awesome when they see them in New York, London or other cities.”

    Sawaya’s artwork entails something that Romans, and Italians overall, cannot deprive themselves of, the curator adds.

    “Everything able to stir an emotion of big surprise is welcomed in Italy, and even more so if there is a deep cultural content behind the artistic creation, since Italians study a lot about creativity, human civilization, and arts through history,” he says.

    The exhibition, which has toured Asia, Australia, America, and some countries in Europe, will run in Rome until Feb 14.