KOLLEEN KU | DATE 8/7/2015
Ai Weiwei (b. 1947) is one of China's most famous, influential and controversial artists. Known equally for his work and his activism, Ai makes art that is both experimental and monumental in form—and daringly critical of the Chinese government's human rights abuses. Ai's Study of Perspective series (1995-2011), featuring the artist's middle finger flipped up in the foreground of photographs of world tourist sites and national monuments, is cheeky and irreverent, while his investigations of the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake are hauntingly tragic and have carried dire personal consequences.
"Study of Perspective," 1995-2011.
In 2011, Ai was arrested and detained by Chinese authorities for 81 days on no official charges. Since his release, he remains under heavy surveillance and confinement in Beijing, yet utilizes art and social media to document or subvert his everyday restrictions. For example, Ai's selfie, taken in an elevator en route to a police investigation in Chengdu, 2009, was immediately circulated throughout the world on social media and online news sources. Last year, the same photo was displayed for the first time under the title "Illuminations" in the exhibition Ai Weiwei: On The Table at La Virreina in Barcelona.
Conceived as a retrospective of Ai Weiwei's career, the
companion publication includes 40 of Ai's best-known pieces alongside early works and others which have never before been exhibited. It features an essay by curator Rosa Pera, as well as an insightful interview with Ai conducted by Llucià Homs.
"Coca-Cola Vase," 1994.
As a center dedicated to images and social debate, La Virreina is a particularly apt venue for Ai's politically conscious, multi-media work. The title of the exhibition refers both to the openness of Ai's work – literally "putting everything on the table," as well as his studio worktable and chairs, which are included in the exhibition. As Ai says in his interview with Homs, "It's a kind gesture, to say that 'we are all at the same table.' ... It's a way of inviting the people of Barcelona to be a part of it."
"Untitled (Ai Weiwei Studio Chairs, Qing Dynasty, Qianlong)," 2000.
Alongside Ai's frank discussion of human rights and activism in China, his use of humor in art and even the impact of fatherhood upon his work,
Ai Weiwei: On The Table offers an intimate and comprehensive look at the career to date of this powerful, inimitable artist.
Clth, 9 x 12 in. / 208 pgs / illustrated throughout.
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