Block by Block

Legos seem to inspire something extremely clever and a little obsessive in certain people. These guys are the MacGyvers of the Lego world--you give them a bucket of plastic bricks, they create the Romanov summer palace of Djulber, complete with little lost princess Anastasia and an advancing counterrevolutionary battalion. Nowhere is that creative force more clearly expressed this month than in the Rusty Scruby and Janet Tyson sculpture exhibition at the Pan American Art Gallery. Both of these artists take sculpture to an avant-garde level that fuses creative impulse with mathematical precision.

Tyson is the Lego savant of the pair, having picked up her fascination with the little Danish blocks when her children discovered them in 1997. In the intervening years, she's gone from primary color block creations to large-scale art installations. She has four of those at the exhibit, including a Lego Zen garden. The gallery will also hang 12 of her smaller creations. These are flatter pieces that pattern the interlocking bricks in a fashion that reflects mosaic- or mandala-style. Their distinctively un-Lego-like earthy colors are punctuated with cobalt blue and pink.

Scruby has a meticulous construction style of a different but no less laborious nature. Rather than Legos, he starts with photographs and reproduces them thousands of times, bending, cropping, clipping and weaving those copies together to create a three-dimensional piece. You get two pieces of art in one: both the image he has reproduced and the tessellation-like effect that is mesmerizing to explore.

The exhibition takes Scruby's method to other materials as well, like disassembled orange juice jugs and hundreds of playing cards. He'll display about 30 pieces. His background in aerospace engineering and music composition is something he cites as an integral part of him that is reflected in the work--math meets music. Math and art may not often get a comfortable pairing, but with Scruby and Tyson, painstaking precision is the path to creation.

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Leah Shafer