Monday, December 4, 2017

The World in Bricks, Lego Art Exhibition comes to Newport on the Levee.

Jonathan Lopes (provided)

From now until the end of December, Newport on the Levee is playing host to an art exhibition with a difference: all the exhibits are crafted from Lego. San Diego based artist Jonathan Lopes has brought his exhibition “The World in Bricks: The Art of Jonathan Lopes” to the Greater Cincinnati area for the first time. The exhibition, which opened on Friday includes many of Jonathan’s acclaimed pieces, including pieces with a distinctive New York urban vibe and more conceptual pieces.

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Jonathan first began using Lego bricks as an artistic medium in the late 1990s. 

“I was a musician in New York City for a number of years and was transitioning out of being a musician at the same time Lego first got the Star Wars license. On a whim I went to Toys R Us and bought an X-Wing fighter since I loved Star Wars as a kid. 

As I built it I enjoyed the feel of the bricks that I’d known as a child and was really enjoying getting re-acclimated with them. I really enjoyed building so I went back and bought another kit. Slowly I built more and more and eventually started building my own designs and posting pictures of them online. Over the course of a couple of years people started asking me to build things for them, that set the foundation for my business of using Lego bricks as an art form.”

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Like most people, Jonathan played with Lego as a child but tended to build from loose bricks rather than sets with instructions, “I think that really helped me out because I wasn’t so reliant on building from instructions, I built my own stuff, from my own imagination out of my big pile of bricks.”

Models inspired by children's literature (FTM)

Jonathan’s imagination is evident throughout the exhibition. It may not be unusual to see buildings made from Lego, but Jonathan has also built characters from children’s books by Richard Scarry, or from the series Super Happy Party Bears, which is written by his wife, Marcie Colleen. There are also more traditional, almost two-dimensional, wall mounted pieces.

The buildings are also very impressive. As well as large models of Grand Central terminal and the Manhattan bridge, there are many equally effective smaller works such as “Vanishing Brooklyn”, which shows a traditional brownstone being overtaken by a modern apartment building. Although there are models from other cities, there is a definite New York vibe. “I really enjoy the urban stuff, I lived in NYC for 26 years, so I’m really inspired by it. I really enjoy the conceptual art as well and I’m doing more and more of that lately.” The techniques used to build the buildings themselves vary. Most of them are done in a traditional fashion with bricks and tiles but some use surprising and innovative methods such as exposing the underside of the bricks on the fascia.

The process of building a model takes some time. “Once I have the idea that I’m building something, I’ll study the building, so much is done in my brain before I build anything, then I’ll sketch it out on graph paper to make sure everything is in proportion. That process takes time. Once I’m happy with it I’ll mock it up with bricks in two dimensions, without any detail. Once I’m satisfied with that I go in and detail it all and go from there.”

A visitor takes an opportunity to make his own creation (FTM)


As well as the artworks at “The World in Bricks”, there are plenty of opportunities to make your own creations. Kids will love building their own pieces to place in a cityscape, as well as cars to race on the race ramps. There is also a brick pit for smaller visitors. While the exhibit is very family friendly and families will definitely love it, there’s usually a good mix of people who attend Jonathan’s exhibitions. “Kids are usually blown away, they love Lego so it’s great to share this with kids and inspire them but one of my joys is seeing couples of all ages come in, people alone who appreciate Lego as art, or are just interested in it. Then to be able to talk to them about it and be to give them an appreciation of Lego as art is a real joy.”


“The World in Bricks: The Art of Jonathan Lopes” runs at Newport on the Levee until Friday the 29th of December. Jonathan will be on hand during the closing night to talk to the public and answer any questions. For more information, see their Facebook page.

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