Ai Weiwei wallpaper and Greek black figure painting

The first thing one notices when entering the Ai Weiwei exhibition at the Lisson Gallery on 24th Street in NYC is the collection of large cast-iron tree trunks, nearly sixteen feet in length, and a series of iron root sculptures that cover the floor, as you can see below. But in this case, I found myself attracted to the wallpaper, and went in for a closer look (scroll down for more …).

Ai Weiwei exhibition at Lisson Gallery

The wallpaper includes images of military personnel and refugees next to barbed-wire fences with messages such as “open the border,” “safe passage,” and “no one is illegal.” My first thought was that the imagery related to Donald Trump and the U.S. election and the topic of illegal immigration, but in fact that is not the case. I guess I’m guilty of having a U.S.-centric mindset when seeing those phrases, but Weiwei is using them along with the imagery to create a visual dialogue about the immigrant situation in Europe. It makes more sense if one uses an art history perspective, because don’t those figures look like ancient Greek black figure paintings found on vases and other pottery? Lisson Gallery director Alex Logsdail explained, “This particular work is based around his research and experience in and around Greece relating to the Syrian refugee crisis. They’re in the style of a Greco-Roman frieze but with a modern twist. There is this foreshadowing and repetition of figures behind other figures. It marries the artist’s interest in design and art and humanitarian issues.”

For a comparison between Ai Weiwei’s wallpaper and some actual examples of Greek black figure painting, check out our collage of images below.

Comparison between Ai Weiwei wallpaper and Greek black figure painting

Here’s another view of Ai Weiwei’s wallpaper, including a section with some of the phrases that I mentioned above. The exhibition is on view at Lisson Gallery through December 23rd.

art by Ai Weiwei about Syrian refugee crisis

Share this: [sharethis-inline-buttons]
Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *