More than just an artist; political activist, sculptor, photographer, and architect Ai Weiwei merges traditional techniques and imagery with personal experience in order to show his tumultuous relationship with the Chinese government. “He Xie,” an installation of thousands of porcelain crabs. They are (not too carefully) arranged in a large circle piled up on one another. The individual objects become one pile which makes them virtually indistinguishable from each other. The piece is a reaction to the demolition of Weiwei’s studio ordered by Chinese government officials. Meaning “river crab” but sounding similar to “harmonious” in Chinese, “He Xie” has also been adapted into slang meaning censorship, something Weiwei is not a stranger to. His passport has been revoked, his twitter deleted, and work destroyed all in an effort to quiet his dissonance. This piece references a dinner held at his recently demolished studio where the main course was indeed river crabs. This is symbolic of the failed attempts the government has made to maintain harmony by censoring Weiwei. Despite their efforts, Weiwei still spoke openly to reporters, and maintained a blog while on house arrest following an 81 day stint in prison on charges of tax evasion. Charges Weiwei questions because he maintains that he was only interrogated about his political actions. For “Coca-Cola Vase,” Ai painted “Coca-Cola” in the company’s familiar script using silver paint on a Neolithic vase. He also has a series of these pots dipped in acrylic paint. These pieces incorporate the most recognized forms from ancient tradition and combine them with contemporary advertisements and showy colors. He’s condemning China for quite literally paving over its history, tearing down ancient temples to build the future of the 21st century. He references this destruction through his own destruction of an ancient vase in his “Dropping the Urn” triptych. Perhaps his most politically charged work is in response...
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