We all remember playing with Lego bricks as kids, but you might not recognize them like this — that eerily lifelike human figure, standing eye-level with you, in no way resembles the stuff you built as a child. There’s something entrancing about how the hard plastic edges all ripple and flow together in a weirdly liquid way. As a former Lego craftsperson, you have an appreciation for how difficult it must have been to pull off an effect like this. Your kids – themselves no strangers to Legos – might not be as analytical about what they’re seeing. They’re just wowed by the crazy-huge figures around them.
The Art of the Brick is the kind of pop-art show the entire family can embrace. At the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane (get it?) until 4 January, you can take your inner child (and your actual children) to wander the 80 exhibit pieces. This is all the work of New York-based artist Nathan Sawaya, who uses over a million individual Lego pieces in this display. Once a corporate lawyer, he quit to build these masterpieces — like the 20-foot-long T-Rex skeleton that made your kids literally gasp when they saw it.
When you first see the dimly lit gallery, the candy-colored works seem to glow with life in their spotlit spaces. Don’t expect to find anything from The Lego Movie or the Lego Star Wars universe here, or Lego men or women in funny outfits. Just standard Lego bricks, engineered into amazing shapes. You’ll be standing there with your kids, transfixed by a life-sized Lego model man struggling to get out of another man in a suit – a social commentary, perhaps? – and try to figure out how Sawaya managed to do it.
You may spend a lot of your day pondering this question, especially when you see familiar art re-created in Sawaya’s favourite medium. Like an uncanny replica of the painting The Scream, with the the haunting figure’s face protruding from the wall. The existential horror is there, somehow, all rendered in plastic bricks. But the real fun is inside the “British” room, full of works created especially for London. Your kids will love the models of One Direction, you’ll love The Beatles, and everybody will want to step inside the iconic red telephone phone box.
After being inspired by the exhibition, head to the Interactive Zone to have a go at creating your own Lego masterpieces. Seeing kids from 5 to about 60 kneeling side by side, sharing bricks and playing nice, makes you wonder why contemporary offices don’t adopt a Lego room. You’ll be pretty pleased with your Lego house — and then you see your kid’s built a helicopter. How’s that for a day out?