ALBANY ─ Legos are not only back in movie theaters, they have become fine art.
The colorful, interconnecting plastic pieces that have entertained and captivated children for decades have been turned in multicolored abstract “paintings,” as well as black and white weaves and geometric patterns by artist Mike Landers. An exhibition of Landers’ work, “Stack: Lego Works,” is currently showing in the East Gallery of the Albany Museum of Art.
“This is an exhibition that appeals to kids and kids at heart,” AMA Executive Director Paula Williams said. “And with ‘Lego Movie 2’ out in theaters now, you can make it a terrific double-feature experience for the kids by visiting the AMA before you head out to the theater.”
Landers and two fellow artists currently exhibiting at the AMA — Masud Olufani and Benjamin Britton — will be at the museum 5-7 p.m. Thursday for the AMA’s Winter Exhibitions Reception. Olufani’s exhibition, “Memory and Meaning,” is in the Haley Gallery, and Britton’s show, “This Unfolding Idyll,” is in the West Gallery. Each of the artists will have an opportunity to speak about his work, and those attending will be able to talk with the artists. The event is free and open to the public.
On March 16, Landers will return for Legos Family Fun Day at the AMA. That event, co-hosted by the Albany Recreation and Parks Department, is set for 10 a.m.-noon. The first 100 kids who arrive for Legos Family Fun Day will receive a free pair of wearable Lego glasses. The event is free and open to the public.
Those who played with Legos as a child and who have seen their children play with them might be surprised that Landers has been able to utilize them as an art medium, Williams noted.
“On the surface, they seem to be locked into a box of sorts — a child’s toy box,” she said. “In the hands of Mike Landers, however, they are transformed into art. The pieces interlock, but in their transformation, they refuse to be locked down by a preconceived notion of what their purpose should be. With his exhibition, we are challenged to rethink long-held beliefs about these objects.”
Landers, a native of Athens, is a self-trained photographer and designer who studied at the University of Georgia. His photographic work includes intimate portraits, formal architectural landscapes, large format pinhole landscapes, and a long-running documentary series of the late-night Athens party crowd.
He began exhibiting his work in 1990. He began creating art with Legos more than two decades later.
“Building with Lego bricks was a big part of my childhood,” the artist said. “Even when I was a kid, I marveled at the brilliant design of the bricks and the variety of colors and shapes.”
That affection was rekindled in 2012 when he saw a “Pick-a-Brick” wall in a Los Angeles Lego Store.
“Seeing the bold colors displayed side by side made me believe Lego bricks would make an excellent medium for abstract art,” Landers said. “From then until now, I have worked to create more complex designs, starting with my multicolor ‘sticks’ and moving toward the large-scale ‘paintings.’”
Most of his current work, he said, “evolved as a result of my love of textile weavings and geometric patterns.” Landers says he enjoys the challenge of incorporating the limited brick sizes and colors into his designs.
“From the start, I wanted to maintain the tradition of Lego as a building tool that could be taken apart and rebuilt,” he said. “In that spirit, none of my work is held together with glue.
“This adds to the challenge as they must be transported, handled and hung without falling apart.”
For more information about the AMA, visit the museum’s website, www.albanymuseum.com, or call (229) 439-8400.