Monday, June 27, 2011

Ai Weiwei: Middle Finger, Tiananmen Square.

Thanks at least in part to global pressure, not only from ambassadors and human rights activists, but from leaders in the art world and people like New York City's Mayor Bloomberg, Chinese authorities agreed to release the artist Ai Weiwei. But why would the Chinese arrest their most famous artist? Take a look at Ai Weiwei's work and its a pretty easy guess. Ai Weiwei uses contemporary art as a vehicle to express singularly bold social criticism.

Middle Finger Tiananmen Square, photo: Ai Weiwei

One piece that put Ai Weiwei on the wrong side of Chinese authorities was his installation, Remembering, at the Haus der Kundst museum in Munich. The piece commemorated the tragic deaths of school children during the Sichuan, China earthquake of 2008. 

 Remembering, Installation, Ai Weiwei 2009

It is widely believed that the reason so many school children were killed was because the schools that collapsed on top of them during the earthquake were poorly constructed due to corruption. Ai Weiwei visited Sichuan after the earthquake where he observed debris littered with children's school things. That inspired him to create a message using 9,000 colorful children's backpacks to spell out, "She lived happily for seven years in this world", a quote from the mother of one of the lost children.

Remembering, Installation, Ai Weiwei 2009

Like memories developing over time the message, placed on an outdoor wall behind trees was slowly revealed as the season changed and the trees lost their leaves.

Remembering, Installation, Ai Weiwei 2009

Another Quick Look at Ai Weiwei

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry TEASER from Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry on Vimeo.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Ai Weiwei: "I'm Home, I'm Fine, I Can't Talk."

 Ai Weiwei Returns to Studio After Release, photo: David Gray/Reuters

World renowned Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei who was detained in April by Chinese authorities has just been released on bail after being held for 81 days. 

China's state media claims that Ai Weiwei confessed to "economic crimes" and has agreed to pay the back taxes they say he owes. His family denies the charges. When asked if his probation will allow him to use twitter, (Ai Weiwei's was known for his popular tweets) Ai laughed gently and apologized for not being able to speak.

 Public Enjoying 100 Million Porcelain Sunflowers at The Tate 
photo Tony Kyriacou/Rex Features

Well known outside of China and perhaps especially in Britain for his recent show Sunflower Seeds at the Tate in London, Ai Weiwei received worldwide popular support while under arrest.

Ai Weiwei Not Talking To British Reporter

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Morris Graves and Machine Age Noise

Spring with Machine Age Noise No. 4, Morris Graves, Tempra on Paper, 1957

Days getting long, sun shining, windows open and by the deafening assault on the senses you might  well believe the Apocalypse is at hand. Power mowers roar against the high piercing scream of weed eaters only pausing for the rare moment to remind you that a bird can still sing before they rev up again... ah, the sounds of the machine age. Here in this tourist town even the screaming massacre of the grass is regularly overwhelmed by the constant traffic of small aircraft overhead. Is there no peace? In my last post I wrote about David Hockney's embrace of the latest technology in his art. But to critique the darker side of the machine age we turn to the one and only Morris Graves.

 Machine Age Noise No. 2, Morris Graves, Ink on Paper, 1957

Morris Graves, renowned Northwest artist and the original Northwest Mystic appreciated peace and quiet to a high degree. Here are his responses to machine age noise. In the Sumi painting Machine Age Noise No. 2 Graves used a broom for a brush giving it an energetic thwack.