This week saw the opening of an exhibition of Ai’s photographs. The exhibition is on view at Asia Society called “Ai Weiwei: New York Photographs 1983-1993,” but also through Ai’s Google+ account. The latter would suggest that Ai is not entirely ‘disconnected’ from the world at large.
I happy to find that Holland Cotter’s review in the New York Times is beginning to demonstrate a more subtle understanding of Ai and his work, something I feel has been more or less absent the English-language reporting on him (the same can be said of a great deal of Chinese ‘reporting,’ of course, only subtlety assailed from a completely different direction). The list of epithets, gadfly, artist-provacteur, adviser, suggests better appreciation of the many roles Ai has played over the years.
What isn’t mentioned is the nude series that I’ve mentioned before on this blog. This might be because his notable nude photograph emerges later on. But this work, of Ai and poet artist Yan Li, is from the era covered in the exhibition:
It may well be that that the New York exhibit includes them, but that Cotter does not consider this series of nude photographs worthy of mention. And indeed, they perhaps wouldn’t be were they not the basis for one part of the charge against Ai (pornography) and an ongoing element in his work.