Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Lampposts

Banner 59

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Bowery btw E 4 & 5 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 László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946, b. Bacsborsod, Hungary), the Hungarian artist and Bauhaus instructor who integrated art and technology. Since he was a foreign national living in Germany, when the Nazis came to power they stripped Maholy-Nagy’s right to work. He first fled to the Netherlands and then to London, eventually relocating to Chicago in 1937, where he lived until his death.

Photographer: Unknown, Date: 1938, Copyright: Public Domain.

Courtesy of the artist.

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