SAO PAULO – Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei brings to Brazil his largest individual exhibition ever, which opens to the public this Saturday in Sao Paulo and for the first time includes works created by Brazilian artisans to give a new twist to his art: the Latin American influence.
The “Roots” exhibition, which will be open to the public until next Jan. 20 at Ibirapuera Park in downtown Sao Paulo, is designed to “reveal lost roots and threatened cultures.”
With works of art in ceramic, wood, paper and iron, the Chinese artist narrates some tragic scenes of his biography, such as his arrest in 2011 when he was accused of tax evasion.
Known worldwide for his fight against repression and human-rights violations, and his interest in political and social matters such as the world’s refugee crisis, Weiwei uses traditional Chinese elements such as pictures on porcelain to represent these matters.
“Weiwei is one of those rare artists that have worldwide fame and at the same time take fine art into pop culture, where people relate to one another through their activism and the use of social networks to take action,” the exhibition curator Marcello Dantas told EFE.
“Weiwei is an artist of strong political content and so there’s no reason for him not to be included in Brazil’s current political discussion, since he is all about freedom of speech, refugees and human rights,” Dantas said.
An inflatable raft with dolls that represent refugees is one of the most powerful pieces of the exhibit. It’s called “Odyssey” and represents the challenge of crossing seas in search of safety.
Spy cameras, handcuffs and iron bars also evoke Ai Weiwei’s struggle against the Chinese government after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and for his outcries demanding transparency of the government about the 5,000 young students who died in that tragedy.
The artist also positions himself as a lover of Brazil and in that regard he met with artisans in the city of Juazeiro do Norte, located in the country’s impoverished northeastern region, to produce 200 unprecedented works of art.
This series of 200 sculptures is a combination of Weiwei’s artistic talent with the northeast Brazilian region’s typical ex-votos, religious offerings carved in wood that are donated in gratitude for prayers that have been answered.