Opening tomorrow, September 27, is Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei’s exhibition @Large in the former San Francisco Bay prison, Alcatraz Island. The sculpture, sound, and mixed media installations are staged in four locations throughout the space: the New Industries Building; a group of cells in A Block; the Hospital; and the Dining Hall. Ai’s work inside creates a dialogue about how we define liberty, justice, and individual rights.
In 2011, Ai was secretly detained by Chinese authorities for 81 days, and is still not permitted to travel outside of the country. He was unable to visit Alcatraz during the planning of the show and was developed in his studio with the help of the FOR-SITE Foundation.
There are a variety of pieces in @Large, including Trace, which is 176 portraits of political prisoners and exiles made from LEGO blocks. The impressive works began at Ai’s studio in Beijing and were completed in San Francisco by a team of 90 volunteers. Cheryl Haines, the exhibition’s curator told the San Francisco Chronicle, “I’m overwhelmed by how remarkable it looks. This is the face of the individual in the fight for freedom, but it’s also a collective statement and to see the density and quantity of people that are incorporated in this work, I find deeply moving.”
In addition to Trace, there are six other themes: With Wind, a giant traditional Chinese dragon kite; Refraction, stunning metal wings; Stay Tuned, sound installation that occupies 12 cells; Illumination, the sounds of Tibetan Buddhist and Native American chants; Blossom, fragile floral bouquets; and Yours Truly, where visitors can write postcards to prisoners. (Via FOR-SITE and Artnet)