Sullivan St btw W 3 & Washington S
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.
Ai created this portrait from an image taken during one of the artist’s team’s visits to the Shariya Camp in Iraq, where displaced Christian, Yezidi, Shi'a Turcomen, Arab, and Shabak ethnic minority communities and religious groups have been forced to flee after being targeted by ISIS. His studio’s surveys and portraits of over 400 people at the Shariya camp mark the beginning of Ai’s deeper involvement with this topic, becoming increasingly involved once able to leave the oppressive conditions he faced in China. Courtesy of the artist.