Jori Finkel of the New York Times described the scene at Alcatraz as artist Ai Weiwei prepares for his multiple installation show.
“Judging from the large bags of colorful Legos on the floor and dozens of plastic base plates piled on tables, this room could have been the activities station for a well-funded summer camp. And the five women and men drifting in and out, slicing open boxes and rooting around for the right size toy bricks, were young enough to pass as camp counselors.”
This scene (and subject matter, freedom) is antithetic for the venue of his newest show, the infamous prison Alcatraz. This assembly Lego masterpiece is taking place in the building where prisoners once laundered military uniforms and is normally off limits to the tourists visiting this national park. In With Wind, one part of the show, birds (paper kites) fly around with a large dragon kite wrapped through the ceiling pipes. The dragon carries coded messages and quotes on his scales (actually hand cut paper).
This show by the artist Ai Weiwei opened September 27 and one installation features 176 portraits of politically exiled and imprisoned men and women from around the world made up of over 1 million Lego blocks. This show, @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz, will be open until April 2015 and was made possible by Cheryl Haines and her team of volunteers who helped to construct the works based off of the designs from a 2,300 page instruction manual. Absent from these portraits is the artist himself who was also a victim of political imprisonment in 2011. He was detained for 81 days, many spent in solitary confinement, and his passport is still being withheld from him today. Those days are fuel for his current show. He is not present at his show; he is still not allowed to leave China. He has never set foot on Alcatraz.