As a kid, I loved Legos. I usually followed the instructions. When I broke free and did something different it ended up symmetrical and obvious. Since my kids (4 year old twins for those who don’t know me) have taken on Legos, I have a totally different relationship with them. I know the types of pieces they like. They are almost always small and shiny or small and complex or small and transparent or dogs.
The local toy store has a blue bin halfway filled with Legos. Inside is a mix of new and old, ugly and awesome. The Legos span decades. Some are off-brand poseurs. There are magnets, strange bits of toys, dusty parts of matchbox cars mixed in. I imagine that panning for gold feels like this. We dig out the best stuff, the heads and the hands, the windows and the tires. We look for cool colors. I am absorbed in this search. It is my quest.
I didn’t draw much as a kid. I got discouraged. I couldn’t make the things on the paper look like they did in the world and I gave up. My father and I had an Erector set to tinker with when I was a kid. I must have fought with that thing 20 times over a number of years. I remember the high shelf I kept it on. It was a source of shame. I could never build Eiffel’s bow-legged tower or even the low slung structure that was the introductory model. Legos gave me opportunities to make the image and puzzle, complete. For those who can’t find David in the lump of stone and never spent the requisite time learning to draw a form, Legos were a chance to be a hard edged Michelangelo, an 8-bit DaVinci.
Legos are collage. Legos are mashups, assemblage and concrete poetry. I watch my kids build. One builds intense vehicles and platforms over grown with computer screens from an 80’s spaceship beside a head from the limited edition Space warrior. Iridescent yellow satellite dishes blossom next to a clown’s cream pie, a brick of gold and a small tow hook. The other one asks for help building cars that look like cargo vans to hold all his favorite bits. He wants them tucked away safe, on the inside, unseen. Their portraits, extro- and introvert, are evident in these objects.
When we get home the new old pieces are coveted. Claims are staked. And then, slowly, they become interspersed among the existing bricks. They commingle. And When new creations are exhibited we ask all sorts of questions. Creations are what we call all new things; whether vehicle or buildings or a figure with 13 heads and no hands.
I cant help but wonder if I had never had Legos. Not to mention Atari. Would my interest in the blocky abstraction that love so dear still be there? Had I been a finger paint and watercolor kid, instead of Spy Hunter and 458 piece Lego race tracks, would I love Titian more than Judd?
I admit that I encourage Lego gluttony. My children know that Daddy likes to play Legos as much as they do. They also know that any creation Daddy makes can be taken apart, co-opted and recreated. Their mashups are always better. They have cream pie radars and legless figures with antennae sprouting from their neck post. And they always, ALWAYS, stop bad guys.
-Jeff Bergman April 2015