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  • Articles by Mary

    Ai Weiwei, Royal Academy

    Ai Weiwei is a man with a message and his current exhibition at the Royal Academy gives us all a chance to listen. While we have seen his work in London before, sunflower seeds at the Tate Modern and Zodiac Heads at Somerset House, this larger exhibition showcases his versatility and the many forms his criticism of China’s current regime can take.


    All of his works are about China.  In some there is an image of the country, a hidden map created in pieces of wood or in porcelain.  Several works comment on the destruction of traditional art and architecture, including a video of the artist dropping a Han dynasty urn. 


    Other works rely on the juxtaposition of material and content.  Traditional marble is used to fashion surveillance cameras and gas masks.  Traditional urns are covered with bright crude paint or with the Coca Cola logo.  


    There are explanatory placards and videos to help us understand the meaning of some of the pieces.  A large stack of iron bars is of limited interest until we are told that these bars were extracted from the ruins of the Sichuan earthquake and painstakingly straightened.  The process is documented and the results of substandard construction and corruption exhibited.


    SACRED is a visual record of Ai Weiwei’s imprisonment in 2011.  We peer into small huts entitled  Supper, Accusers, Cleansing, Ritual, Entropy, and Doubt.  There is no commentary as none is needed.  


    This exhibition works at many levels.  While the pieces are often beautiful, visually interesting, and thought provoking, the stronger story is Ai Weiwei’s personal one.  Recommended.  Until 13 December


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