Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

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Banner 58

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Washington Pl btw Washington Sq W and 6 ave

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 Tina Modotti (1896-1942, b. Udine, Italy), the photographer, model, actress, and revolutionary who immigrated to the United States as a teenager from Italy. She moved to Mexico with her partner Edward Weston to join the artistic community of Mexico City around Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Her voice as an outspoken member of the Mexican Communist Party resulted in her exile from Mexico, first to Berlin, then to Moscow, as well as to Spain during the Spanish Civil War. Eventually, she returned to Mexico in 1939 under a false identity.

Photographer: Edward Weston, Date: 2012, Copyright: Public Domain.

Courtesy of the artist.

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