Art at Alcatraz…

….I’m not kidding.

I’ve never wanted to visit Alcatraz.  I don’t understand the appeal.  The Art Caravan pulled into San Francisco last week, and was offered the opportunity to tour Alcatraz.  Thank goodness a friend  mentioned the art show at Alcatraz or I probably wouldn’t have gone.

What a loss that would have been.  To put it plainly, this is one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen.  Ever.  Really.

The art show is actually a series of installations by the contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei.  He is considered to be as much  activist, as well as  artist.

There are seven different installations. Weiwei deals with the ideas of confinement, repression, and suppression.  He uses a variety of materials: sound, porcelain, recycled metals and playthings (Lego, and kites.)

He has been critical of his government, and is currently unable to leave China.  His re-purposing of the different spaces in the prison is most remarkable, when one considers he was not able to visit Alcatraz.

The artwork is very site specific.  His use of individual cell blocks as ‘sound booths’ for broadcasting was extremely moving.  One cell was filled with  classical music written by the Czech/Jewish composer, Haas, while interred at Terezin concentration camp.  Each cell had a different musician, poet or speaker.

I wasn’t actually able to enter the psychiatric holding cells,  The sound and space were too powerful for me.

The last installation I saw was remarkable.  It is composed of recycled metal, including solar panels.  It is like a giant winged creature, contained in a space.  One views is from a narrow, poorly lit corridor.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz is on view until April 26, 2015.



8 thoughts on “Art at Alcatraz…

  1. Julie

    Solar panels, locked away in the dark… I’d been hearing about this show, but your descriptions and photos help me see the power of it.

    1. terryvatrt

      To be fair, we did visit the island in the evening/dark. The work is so strong, though, that I found it challenging even when I was writing the posting.

  2. Scott Edie

    There is a great film about Ai Wei Wei: Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, 2012 that is available through Netflix. It covers the time not long before the Alcatraz show (before and after he was harassed by the Chinese police and jailed for tax and explains a little, perhaps, about why he want to present a show in Altcatraz. But he is an amazing, amazing artist with a stellar vision.

  3. Pingback: Ai Weiwei - The Art Caravan

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