Nathan Sawaya: Follow the Lego brick road

Nathan Sawaya

In 2012, a knock on the door of Nathan Sawaya's New York apartment set off a short road trip of the American Southwest for the Lego-brick artist and Australian photographer Dean West. For two weeks, Sawaya and West staged photo shoots at an abandoned Army barracks, a derelict hotel and a train station, whose boarding platform contained a set of clamshell luggage and at least one familiar-looking cowboy in work boots and jeans.

"I make a cameo as the cowboy," Sawaya says. "Our talent didn't show up that day and, well, the costume fit."

What also fit for Sawaya and West, whose resulting exhibit, "In Pieces," will open June 7 at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, was the idea to Photoshop Sawaya's Lego creations into the photographs. Look closer at the train-station photograph, and the tracks are crafted from the multicolored toy bricks. So, too, are the cloud and the leafless tree in the photograph "Hotel," which appear pixelated against the sepia-colored skies and mountain ridges of the Mojave desert.

"We would find those rundown homes and businesses in the Southwest, and we would literally find people who'd walk up to us with a shotgun in their hands and a what-are-you-doing-here look on their faces, which was all a bit scary when you're in the middle of nowhere," Sawaya recalls. "I think these kinds of hyperreal images sort of comment on modern, digital photography, and how the world can look a bit pixelated."


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Sawaya's Lego sculptures will be on display next to their corresponding "In Pieces" photographs. Also appearing are works from Sawaya's earlier career, which make reference to 2004 , the year he quit practicing law to professionally tinker with his favorite toys. Whimsical, surrealist pieces such as "Gray" depict a monochromatic Lego man's face screwed up in anguish, his hands tearing through a wall. "Strength of Spirit" shows a miniature red figure being crushed between the forefinger and thumb of an oversize gray hand, which Sawaya describes as the law office building where he worked.

The Art and Culture Center is also introducing "H-Allen Benowitz: People of the World," a survey from the Miami photographer's travels overseas. Most of these eight colorful shots come from Rajasthan, India, where Benowitz captures a quintet of teenage musicians ("Boy Band"), and a boy doodling on his arm with ink ("No Papel").

In the nearby side gallery, the photo composites from "Rod Faulds: Recent Photo-Based Works" contain images of the ocean and the New Jersey countryside, which have each been cut into vertical strips and reassembled into a collage. The Boynton Beach-based artist calls the result "random abstract expressionism."

"A lot of what I photograph are banal things that aren't worth seeing or worth photographing," says Faulds, director of the University Galleries at Florida Atlantic University. "We don't think of photography really as abstract, but I think by making these composites, the photos become like a painting."

The Art of Nathan Sawaya featuring In Pieces; Rod Faulds: Recent Photo-Based Works; H-Allen Benowitz: People of the World

When: Saturday, June 7, through Aug. 17

Where: Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, 1650 Harrison St.

Cost: $6-$10

Contact: 954-921-3274 or ArtAndCultureCenter.org