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What is it about LEGOs? Tampa Bay History Center opened its Brick History show last month, using the popular plastic building bricks to recreate moments in world history. The first mural painted for the most recent SHINE Mural Festival was the LEGO-inspired Pride & Love at 2437 Central Avenue by artists Jay Hoff and Chad Mize. And yesterday, the Ringling Museum in Sarasota opened Zodiac (2018) LEGO by the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

What’s the appeal? Perhaps it’s the toys’ all-ages accessibility, or their rainbow-bright hues. Ai Weiwei, the world-renowned multimedia artist and political dissident, has said that “Lego is a language which everybody can appreciate,” and he has used it to create portraits of political prisoners and the 43 college students who were kidnapped and disappeared in Iguala, Mexico. But in his show at the Ringling, he’s returning to another of his artistic concerns, the animal symbols of the Chinese zodiac: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Pig. He has shown sculptures of the animals at the Ringling before, in bronze and gold. Recreated in LEGOs, they’ll perhaps seem less monumental, more approachable. And once your kids see this show (or Brick History, or the mural) expect Santa to see requests for LEGOs on more than a few wish lists.  

Zodiac (2018) LEGO:  Through 2/2/20 at The John & Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Rd., Sarasota,

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