Dec 2, 2011

TREND| Lego Art

Nathan Sawaya, Grasp, Lego
It's safe to say that just about everyone has had an encounter, as a child or an adult, where they pieced together some kind of building, or car, or abstract sculpture using the miniature building block toys that are known as legos. Legos are a simple and classic toy that can be used however its handler sees fit. But more impractically, these little plastic pieces can be forged into decadent art sculptures.

The Lego brand began by way of a Danish wooden toy maker named Ole Kirk Christiansen. In 1934, his company came to be called "Lego", from the Danish phrase leg godt, translating to "play well". The lego turned plastic in 1947, and in 1949 they produced the infamous interlocking bricks. Legos are made from durable plastic and are compatible with any other lego piece with the right sized peg to fit to fit it. It is this versatility of the toys that makes it easy to use as a building block for creativity, leaving its possibilities open to its users. Or in this case, it is a tool that can be easily used by an artist to craft a compelling piece.
Sean Kenney, Times Square, Lego

I visited a Lego art show in my hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas a few years back that featured lego art made from various lego artists around the world. I went on two different days and both days there was an astonishing turnout of viewers for the show, more than usual for an exhibits premier weekend at this gallery at least. In my opinion, the large population of viewers was due to the fact that legos are a familiarity to almost everyone. Taking a toy that can be found in about any child's arsenal of toys from the past forty to fifty years and using it as art is uncommon, but makes it appealing to viewers for the fact that it holds a sense of nostalgia alongside awe for the creation in front of them. This combination makes it a fascinating art form.

There are bulks of artists who use just legos as the basis of art. One of my more favorites is Nathan Sawaya. Sawaya has created some of the most recognizable lego art in America. He has created pieces for multiple brand name companies, made replica sculptures of celebrities and well known people, and has galleries across the country comprised of his many original works. I was lucky enough to see his work at the fore mentioned art show in Corpus Christi, Texas and Sawaya's work is awe-inspiring to say the least. Sawaya crafts life sized 3-deminsional sculptures and portrait like pieces of art that are detailed beyond belief. Standing face to face with an abstract man type subject that is made from a toy that you can buy at a local store is surreal. The shapes of all the little square blocks blended into each other resemble that of a pixilated image. It’s almost as if you are looking at a blurred picture or an old video game character but in person. One similarity I found in more than one of Sawaya's sculpture was self mutilation, in that of the person type creation tearing from itself. I found this interesting because it sort of played off of the fragility of the creation, as that seemingly should the sculpture fall it would crumble back into the original little square pieces. It is this combination of dazzling abstract art, resembling the human form with the reminder that it is compiled from a child’s toy that creates an inspiring medium to Sawaya's work.

Nathan Sawaya, Yellow, Lego

The use of legos is a basis that is continuously growing in the art world. Its simplicity mixed with a feeling that brings its viewers back to their childhood along with an abstractness that can leave one pondering at the meaning of the work will continue to increase its fan base. The fact that a person can make a lego castle or car as a child that fills their imagination with wonder and still receive the same feeling as an adult looking at a sculpture or portrait made by an artist out of the same little plastic blocks will ever be a basis of inspiration, and a testimony to the creativity and ability of the human race.

- John Wolfe


  1. i found this blog entry to be very interesting. This is a style of work that i always thought would be cool to try but i didn't know that artist actually did this.

    -jarrad taylor

  2. Ever since I was a child I've enjoyed playing and building with lego blocks. This blog intrigued my interested for that matter and has inspired me to work with legos more extensively in the future. The material was very informative and the way you composed your blog kept my interest on track.

    -Eddie Richmond

  3. Many people, not just artists, have a hard time recalling and responding to their childhood. While these artists weren't all responding to childhood memories there is definitely a feeling of nostalgia for the viewer or at least there was for me. I think everyone that read your entry was taken back to their favorite memory of Lego blocks. While I'm still uneasy about the use of Lego's as an art form, I do appreciate the flashback to my childhood.

    -Marian Mabry

  4. Its Amazing how one can create these landscapes whether they exist in real life or plainly an imagined space by using little blocks of all different colors and sizes! I find it fascinating how they can be build up to create life size sculpture-life figures. Personally I rarely played with Legos as a child but now that I am older I find them very enjoyable and it's awesome that one can be inspired from "childrens toys".

    -Clara Moreno

  5. This post has evoked a lot of nostalgia in the readers, I love it. As a child, I remember how unbelievably tedious it was to build even a handheld Lego contraption, I can't imagine how time-consuming the pieces in this post were. Someone let me know if people start creating art out of Barrel of Monkeys.

    -Will Tullos

  6. Lego art is awesome! I did my first post over a similar trend that also explored Sawaya's work and it is super interesting. The use of legos speaks to a large audience because we all grew up playing with them.
    -Taylor Williams

  7. As soon as I read this entry I looked up the artist and was even more wowed! I never imagined tht someone could take such a inexpensive material and create a glorious sculpture! As a mother of two children I can defiantly say that I will be more considerate of the toys tht I buy my children! A lego can help them creat anything that they want and dream of! Great post, it was very easy to read through the whole thing! Well done! :)

    -Jessica Aviles

  8. Like Jessica, I had to know more about this artist. The fact that he created purpose out of something that is essentially purposeless is something that strikes me as seriously beautiful.

    And like Will said, the nostalgia came flowing back at me like a stream of happy memories. I love the Lego art, and all that is Lego.

    Thank you for sharing these works with us!

    - Katie Lewis

  9. What a nostalgia bomb. I'm a sucker for this style of work (8-bit art as well). To be able to create truly moving imagery, with a material that nearly everyone associates with childhood, whether positive or negative, fantastic.

    I was constantly building things with toys like these (Lincoln logs, k'nex, legos, etc)when I was young, but I would always end up building figures that really didn't represent anything. It's great to see artists tap into their youth like this.

    On a similiar note, "pixel" art (digital version of this lego art?) has become popular through the game Minecraft, where the game world is realized by blocks.

    -Brenden Freedman

  10. The nostalgic nature of legos is probally what drew so many people to read and comment on your blog. The fact that Kenney has made fin art from such simple material is astnoshing in itself. I only made castles and guns with legos, and this work just makes me excited. Bravo!

    -Luke Cisneros

  11. I personally never thought about lego's as art but now i see how it could be. As a child i always played with lego's. I am glad that as artists we do not have grow up and stop playing i guess the we drop the playing word and start creating. thanks for the post.

    - Amanda Roland

  12. Im so excited that someone did this! I never would have thought of this! Good job on a creative trend idea! Im very interested in learning more about Sawaya's work now!

    - Erin Davis

  13. This is so interesting! I always loved playing with legos when I was younger. I never really thought of "lego building" to be an art, but I definitely have a new perspective on this now. I could only imagine building something so intricate out of legos! It makes me want to go out and find more lego art, and see what other artists have created.

    -Brittany Drake

  14. Haha I love how this post proves that nostalgia trumps every time. This really is awesome though, and makes me want to research more about the artists.

    -Meagan McLendon

  15. I really liked this post! Legos have been talked about for years but I liked that you took it to a level with an artist you were interested in and you also had viewer experience with lego shows in the past. I also really liked that you showed that legos are pretty universal and anyone from child to adult can relate

    -Abigail cannon

  16. It's amazing what can be creted with a child's toy. So much detail is achieved with the repitition of a single form.

    ~Jill Ewing