NEW YORK—A seemingly simple installation by contemporary artist Ai Weiwei makes a profound social statement and manages to be both abstract and orderly. Composed of metal fragments salvaged from schools destroyed by the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, the precise work carpets the floor of Mary Boone Gallery in Chelsea.
“Forge” is a pair of exhibits featuring installations by the Chinese artist currently on view at both of the gallery’s New York spaces.
Ai conducted a citizens’ investigation to document the student victims of the earthquake and is using the metal remains to bring attention to the fact that the schools collapsed due to sub-standard construction that the Chinese government attempted to cover up.
The precisely laid series of bent rebar took a week to install. When asked about the process, the gallery said in order to replicate the original installation composed by Ai in his Beijing studio, an aerial photograph was taken, the image was gridded and mapped with coordinates, and finally, the pieces of metal rebar were stored in boxes labeled with their corresponding coordinates. Finally, five of the Chinese artist’s assistants were flown in to lead the re-installation at the gallery.
All photos © Arts Observer
At the gallery’s Fifth Avenue space, Ai’s work tells the story of the government destruction of his Shanghai studio. As soon as the new studio was built in 2010, the local authorities declared the construction illegal and eventually demolished it in 2011.
Fifth Avenue: The exhibition documents the fate of Ai Weiwei’s studio through before and after images of the building (background), a documentary and “celebratory” crabs.
The installation of 2,500 hand-made porcelain creatures represents the celebration Ai Weiwei organized when he learned the fate of his studio. Via Twitter, he invited supporters to a rally at the site of his studio and provided a feast of 10,000 crabs for the gathering.
“Forge” is on view at Mary Boone Gallery at its locations in Chelsea and on Fifth Avenue from Oct. 13 to Dec. 21, 2012. The exhibit coincides with an extensive survey of Ai’s work at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum, where “According to What?” is on view through Feb. 24, 2013.