There's something ironic about the fact that even though his passport has been confiscated by the Chinese government, Ai Weiwei has still managed to crop up in so many countries across the globe. With ongoing shows at the Brooklyn Museum and the Martin-Gropius-Bau along with an epic Alcatraz exhibition on the way, the Chinese dissident artist is certainly having the last laugh these days. Except there is little trace of laughter inside the artist's upcoming "Ai Weiwei in the Chapel" show at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Instead, viewers will find highly poignant pieces that allude to Ai's sentiments on his lack of freedom.
In the courtyard of the gallery's recently renovated chapel sits an Iron Tree made from 99 branches, roots, and trucks that have been welded together. Despite the fact that it's meant to look like a living tree, the barren sculpture has obviously been forcefully pieced and joined together. Its lifeless quality makes it poignant and thought-provoking.
The show will also feature 45 of Ai's Fairytale-1001 Chairs, which has been installed in nine rows of five and meticulously spaced out. The chairs touch on "the complications of travel for ordinary Chinese citizens," a plight Ai has experienced directly, the press release explains.
Additionally, the exhibition will also see one of Ai's Ruyi (which means "wish-fulfillment" in Chinese) creations and a cheeky Chinese lantern made from marble, which is perhaps one of the more lighthearted pieces in the chapel. For years, the Chinese authorities have bombarded Ai's home with surveillance cameras and monitored his every move. How does Ai respond? He mockingly decks the CCTV cameras with red Chinese lanterns, of course. Now he's recreated one of those lamps, carving it out of stone from the same quarries emperors used to construct the Forbidden City and more recent leaders to build Mao Zedong's tomb.
The show marks Ai's first project in a British public gallery since his epic "Sunflower Seeds" exhibition at Tate Modern in 2010. The upcoming show will be accompanied by a reading of select works by the celebrated poet Ai Qing, Ai Weiwei's father.
"Ai Weiwei in the Chapel" opens May 24 and will be on view through Nov. 2, 2014.