Known for incorporating recognizable, everyday objects into monumental sculptures, Ai Weiwei (previously) has created acclaimed installations using bicycles, life vests, and seeds and flowers made of porcelain that often challenge political issues such as the social unrest of his native China, the global refugee crisis, and themes of liberty and freedom of speech. Since 2014, he has utilized LEGO as a medium but not without some controversy along the way due to the political nature of his work. Now, Ai has completed his largest LEGO piece to date in a recreation of “Water Lilies,” one of French Impressionist artist Claude Monet’s most iconic artworks.
Monet’s Water Lilies series was inspired by the artist’s garden in Giverny, France, featuring a foot bridge over a pond teeming with wildlife. This idyllic setting was the design and creation of Monet himself, who at the turn of the 20th century had the nearby River Epte partially diverted in order to bring his vision to life. Ai challenges our perceptions of natural beauty and reality, replacing brush strokes with plastic bricks redolent of digital pixels, using a more saturated color palette, and embedding shadows that evoke a hint of unease.
Both accessible and recognizable, LEGO allows Ai to broach difficult topics in a format that is more approachable. On the right-hand side, he has placed a dark portal depicting the door to the underground dugout in Xinjiang Province where he and his father, Ai Qing, lived in forced exile in the 1960s.
Composed of nearly 650,000 pieces in 22 colors, “Water Lilies #1” is part of Ai Weiwei: Making Sense, the artist’s forthcoming exhibition at The Design Museum. which runs April 7 through July 30 in London. Follow more updates on Instagram.
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