Ai Weiwei @ Alcatraz, and legos, lots of legos

Thor Swift for The New York Times

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).

with-wind_dragonface

Photo by Hyperallergic,com

with-wind_dragon

Photo by Hyperallergic,com

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.

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Explore the Activist Street Art of Buenos Aires Online (Hyperallergic)

by Allison Meier on August 13, 2014 original article here.

Mural by Ever in Castillo 201, Buenos Aire (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Mural by Ever in Castillo 201, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Through more than 300 images now posted online, you can explore the vibrant activism of Buenos Aires street art from your computer. As a metropolis where street art has often offered a voice for dissent and community resurgence, as well as a reminder to not forget recent atrocities, the Argentine capital has a distinct history that resonates on its walls.

Back in June, the Buenos Aires–based nonprofit Graffitimundo was one of 30 partners in the launch of the new Google Street Art Project. Their contribution to the platform includes hundreds of photographs from the 1980s to the present, as well as online exhibitions featuring stencil art and activism, the institutionalization of underground art, and the social impact of public art.

Cat painted by Jaz at Thames 201, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Cat painted by Jaz at Thames 201, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

The street art starts in 1983 — the year that saw the end of the “Dirty War,” during which tens of thousands of people disappeared and were murdered by the state, and the return of democracy to Argentina. Suddenly people were able to speak their minds without fear of it leading to death, and the walls were mobbed with graffiti, propaganda, advertisements, and Argentinians just writing their thoughts. Then came the financial fallout of 2001, with its violent riots; following the destruction and bleak pall that befell the city, artists painted on the streets to bring some color and buoyancy back to Buenos Aires. Today these events of the recent past continue to reverberate — just this month a grandmother reunited with her grandson, who in 1978 was taken by the dictatorship from his mother, who gave birth to him in detention before she was executed.

 

Art by Jaz and Hyuro on the Google Cultural Institute street view (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Art by Jaz and Hyuro on the Google Cultural Institute street view (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Sparks of this history can be found in the Graffitimundo images, from Monica Hasenberg’s haunting 1983 “Silhouettes of the disappeared” to a recent wall collaboration by Tec, Defi, Chu, NASA, Parbo, Pedro, and Larva that’s representative of the post–financial crash style. Buenos Aires is very open in terms of giving artists permission to paint in public spaces — witness this collaboration between Jaz and Ever on an antique restoration warehouse, where the merchandise mingles with the mural’s cat-headed beings and man with three eyes — and you can see through the mapping project how the works wind through the city. There are also reminders of how street art continues to engage directly with contemporary issues, such as a mural by Borda on the grounds of the city psychiatric hospital that shows a figure examining medicine like it’s playing cards.

Later this year Graffitimundo plans to release a documentary on Buenos Aires street art called White Walls Say Nothing. That and the new explorable online cartography, while by no means comprehensive, give an international audience insight into the city’s activist street art.

Work by Nazza Stencil in Villa Martelli, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

Work by Nazza Stencil in Villa Martelli, Buenos Aires (via Graffitimundo/Google Cultural Institute)

View more from Graffitimundo at the Google Cultural Institute