Ai Wei Wei’s “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” Exhibit in Williamsburg
In the age of looking down at a device while we travel to and fro, Ai Wei Wei has brought NYC a reason to look up with his lamppost banner series. This is part of his “Good Fences Make Good Neighbors” exhibit. The whole exhibit has 300 works, 200 of which are double-sided lamppost banners depicting portraits of immigrants and refugees on wide mesh screens of black vinyl. The citywide exhibit is on view in public spaces until February 11, 2018.
Williamsburg hosts fifteen banners: eight in the southside and seven in the northside. Banner 40 on Graham Avenue between Conselyea Street and Metropolitan was first to catch my eye. According to the Public Art Fund page on Banner 40, “This banner depicts Max Born (1882-1970, b. Wroclaw, Poland), a Nobel Prize-winning German physicist and mathematician instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics. Born was forced to flee Germany when Hitler dismissed all Jews of their credentials and academic appointments in 1933, finding refuge in England, a teaching post at Cambridge University, and gaining British citizenship in 1939.”
To see a map of where to locate the lamppost banners, and to read up on the people they portray go to: www.publicartfund.org/ai_weiwei_good_fences_make_good_neighbors
By Lori Ann Doyon
Remember when Banksy made the rounds of NYC, back in October of 2013, and created thirty-one pieces of art in thirty-one days? Day Sixteen’s canvas was the Cook Street edge of New York Optical on 48 Graham Avenue. The image is of two Japanese women facing each other on a bridge: one with a fan, the other with a parasol, and a bonsai tree beneath them. The piece was later defaced, but Dr. Wayne Tabachnick, the owner of New York Optical, stepped up and had it restored and it remains protected under Plexiglas and a locked gate. Passersby can go into the store and request a viewing.
Brolga on and off Bedford
By Conrad Brittenham
Tom Dowling is one of many foreign artists in Williamsburg who now call it their home. A muralist, Tom grew up in Darwin, a city in northern Australia, and Toowoomba on the easternmost coast. After spending much of his twenties traveling around places including Ireland, Canada, and Japan, Dowling’s most recent stop seems to have stuck.
“I chose Williamsburg because of its vibrancy and close ties to the art and music scene,” he says.
Dowling, whose multitudinous murals scatter the sides of buildings throughout central Williamsburg, signs his pieces, ‘Brolga.’ The name refers to a tall stork-like water bird native to northern Australia that some aboriginal friends of Dowling’s likened him to one day while playing soccer. Watching Dowling stand on his ladder in his straw hat as he reaches upwards to amend some detail that sits almost out of his lengthy reach, the comparison seems accurate.
Tourists can typically be seen photographing Dowling’s large-scale portraits of Muhammad Ali and Miles Davis on north Bedford Avenue corners. A motif of patterns and squiggly shapes pervade Dowling’s work, work that the artist describes as being inﬂuenced by Frank Stella, Stuart Davis, and the street-art scene in New York and elsewhere.
Dowling seeks out walls that he thinks work well for his ideas, generally in places that receive a lot of foot trafﬁc and have friendly owners.
“You really get to know a [neighborhood] and its characters if you’re out on the street for a week painting a mural. I love that part of it. I’ve met really interesting people this way and it’s taken me to places that I never would have previously believed.”