Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Essex St btw Canal St & Hester St

Ai Weiwei’s citywide exhibition uses existing elements of urban infrastructure as platforms for public art. Lamppost banners display a series of 200 portraits of immigrants and refugees. Unlike typical printed advertisements, the artist created unique double-sided banner portraits by cutting black vinyl to make images appear in the portions that remain. Their play of positive and negative space is analogous to the often-ambiguous status of refugees and migrants. The series encompasses many groups by spanning several periods and locales. It includes historic images from Ellis Island, photographs of notable refugees, formal portraits by Ai Weiwei’s studio from the Shariya camp in Iraq, and the artist’s cell phone photographs taken at refugee camps and national borders around the world. The banners portray people from varied backgrounds, yet each is presented in a consistent format, emphasizing their shared humanity.

This banner depicts Billy Wilder (1906-2002, b. Sucha Beskidzka, Poland), the director, producer, and screenwriter who created such memorable films as The Seven Year Itch, Some Like It Hot, and Sunset Boulevard. Wilder, fearing anti-Semitism, fled Berlin where he was working as a screenwriter, to Paris in reaction to the Nazi’s rise to power. He then immigrated to Hollywood in 1933 to seek further refuge and to advance his career as a filmmaker.

Photographer: Studio, Date: ca. 1950, Copyright: Public Domain.

Courtesy of the artist.

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