You have until March 3 to see Ai Weiwei’s remarkable Life Cycle exhibition at the Marciano Art Foundation in Los Angeles. Inside a warehouse-like space at the former Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Mid-Wilshire, the three-part installation offers a provocative response to the global refugee crisis. If you miss it, you miss the most important art show of the winter in L.A.
This is Ai’s first major exhibition in Los Angeles, and combines two previous works — Sunflower Seeds (2010) and Spouts (2015) — alongside the new Life Cycle collection of sculptures.
The viewer experience opens with a stunner. Just inside the entrance to the Theater Gallery are two vast fields of objects in perfectly arrayed rectangles on the floor. The first is made of nearly 50 tons of individual porcelain sunflower seeds crafted by more than 1,600 artisans at a porcelain production center in China’s Jinagxi province. The other is a spectacular array of antique teapot spouts dating back as far as 1,000 years.
As with other Ai works, these are both meditations on the individual’s role in society, and the attempt by geopolitical regimes to suppress personal expression. As a political dissident, Ai frequently comments through his work on how governments monitor and mute voices, and it’s easy to read into metaphors here about seeds of dissent and spouting opposing views.
Life Cycle fills a former orchestra pit in The Theater Gallery and is built around a massive inflatable raft crammed with dozens of figures that turn out to be mythical beasts. The reference to the zodiac is two-fold, both to astrology and to the Zodiac rafts favored by refugees crossing the Mediterranean in perilous attempts to flee oppression.
If there’s a glimmer of hope it’s in the materials and techniques. Like the traditional Chinese kites made from silk and bamboo, even the weightiest of these icons has an opportunity for flight and freedom, given the right conditions.
Ai Weiwei was born in 1957 in Beijing and currently lives and works in Berlin. Among numerous awards and honors, he is the recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Chinese Contemporary Art Awards in 2008, the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent from the Human Rights Foundation, New York in 2012, and the Ambassador of Conscience Award from Amnesty International in 2015. He was made Honorary Academician at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2011.
Marciano Art Foundation
4357 Wilshire Boulevard
Source: “Los Angeles” – Google News