Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Essex St btw Hester St & Grand 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 Piet Mondrian (1872-1944, b. Amersfoort, Netherlands), the Dutch De Stijl artist, who moved to Paris in 1911 to pursue his artistic career, but fled to London and then New York when the specter of World War II loomed over Europe.

Photographer: Unknown, Date: Unknown, Copyright: Public Domain.

Courtesy of the artist.

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