For his new exhibit opening September 27th on Alcatraz Island, embattled artist and activist Ai Weiwei has assembled 176 portraits of political prisoners and people in exile for their political beliefs — in LEGOs.
Ai spent six months compiling a list of people he wanted to feature, including Edward Snowden, Reeyot Alemu and Chelsea Manning. After the list was finalized, ten designers broke the photos down to a pixelated-diagram format.
Each portrait is comprised of up to 10,000 LEGO bricks. The works were partially assembled at Ai’s studio in Beijing, before being completed in San Francisco by 90 volunteers. Ai is not allowed to attend the show after having his passport taken by the Chinese government three years ago.
The rest of the show is filled out with porcelain flowers and kites. Regarding these pieces, the artist says he wanted to fill the space above the portraits with things that are “light, cheerful, full of energy, hope and even with joy.”