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Art made from a toy: call it a twist on cubism

Cube Works Studio’s Falling Apart.

Josh Chalom beat his own Rubik's cube record in December – it was a feat much bigger and more complex than twisting the six-sided figure so all its colours match.

The mosaic of the Macau skyline he and his team of 20 artists created from 85,794 Rubik's cubes, which is four metres high and 60 metres wide, earned the record for the "Largest Rubik's Cube Mosaic Ever Created." Who was the previous record holder? Chalom's Cube Works Studio, based in Toronto, which took the honour in 2010 with a mosaic of Michelangelo's Hand of God from the Sistine Chapel that measured nine metres by five metres.

Thanks to the Macau project, Chalom is now in talks with the owners of the Rubik's cube trademark to create "monumental attractions for them," he says.

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Art made from the toy invented by Hungarian architecture professor Erno Rubik in 1974 is now widespread enough that it has its own name – Rubikcubism. In a sign of its growing popularity, Cube Works Studio, founded in 2008, is set to move to a much larger gallery space this spring, leaving the 30-square-metre space it has occupied in Toronto's Distillery District to a space more than double that size.

While the studio also works with Lego, crayons and spools of thread, six-sided cubes are still its most popular medium, with most of the pieces coming from private commissions. That includes one remake of a Roy Lichtenstein piece for a couple in Chicago and another of the Statue of Liberty for a Canadian couple living in New York. Given the pop-culture nature of this pixel art, many of Cube Works Studio's works are inspired by characters from film and television: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter.

Depending on the complexity of the image, a typical piece of between 400 and 600 cubes can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $5,000. To keep costs down, the studio usually works with Chinese knock-offs that can be purchased for about $1 each.

"It takes you back to happier times," Chalom says. "Any time you can take something that brings you back to your childhood, it has an emotional anchor."

Oh, and just in case you're wondering, Chalom is no whiz when it comes to solving a Rubik's Cube. "I'm an expert at unsolving it."

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More

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