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Hi.

My name is Gary Zidek. Welcome to The Arts Section. Tune into the radio program every Sunday morning on WDCB 90.9 & 90.7 FM or listen to it online here. I'll be showcasing a variety of arts & entertainment, as well as.highlighting some creative ideas.

Chinese Artist/Activist Ai Weiwei Brings TRACE Exhibit to Chicago

Chinese Artist/Activist Ai Weiwei Brings TRACE Exhibit to Chicago

WDCB's Gary Zidek gets a closer look at Ai Weiwei's LEGO portraits that make up his traveling exhibit, TRACE.

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"I think the idea is, for people to come in here to look at these portraits, to understand what it is that others suffer. And we don't have to suffer with them, but we have to acknowledge that and maybe do something about it." - Sandhya Jain-Patel, producer of TRACE in Chicago.

 Sandhya Jain-Patel. producer of TRACE in Chicago

Sandhya Jain-Patel. producer of TRACE in Chicago

If you aren't looking for the address, 659 W. Wrightwood Avenue, you might walk right by the new space that's displaying TRACE.

 Door to TRACE in Chicago at 659 W. Wrightwood Avenue in the Lincoln Park neighborhood

Door to TRACE in Chicago at 659 W. Wrightwood Avenue in the Lincoln Park neighborhood

Once you're inside, you get a sense of how big the 4-story space is.

 Inside 659 w. Wrightwood Avenue

Inside 659 w. Wrightwood Avenue

TRACE is divided into zones, various gallery space showcase Ai's LEGO portraits on the floor.

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TRACE depicts women and men from around the world whom Ai considers activists, prisoners of conscience, or advocates of free speech.

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From a distance, it’s difficult to tell these portraits are made of exclusively of LEGOs.  Jain-Patel says Ai wanted the portraits to have a surveillance video-like quality, and LEGOs are a perfect material to create pixelated images.

 Ai's portrait of Nelson Mandela

Ai's portrait of Nelson Mandela

A little closer ...

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And up-close

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The original version of TRACE, which opened at Alcatraz in 2014, included 176 portraits.  The Chicago version contains 113 portraits made from hundreds of thousands of individual LEGO bricks.

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Visitors can learn about each of the men and women depicted in the portraits by using a touch-screen interactive device stationed at each zone of the exhibit.

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TRACE was brought to Chicago by Alphawood Exhibitions, which is part of the grantmaking organization, Alphawood Foundation

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Ai Weiwei’s TRACE will be on display at 659 W. Wrightwood avenue in Chicago through June 30. Admission is free but you do need to reserve a timed ticket in advance. Visit alphawoodex.org to make your online reservation.

 Mural of what TRACE looked like at Alcatraz

Mural of what TRACE looked like at Alcatraz

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