The Roof Garden Commission by Imran Qureshi, 2013
This work of political commentary comes from Pakistani artist, Imran Qureshi, who proffers a rather humanistic reaction to the violence he has encountered in his own life. Splatters of rich red paint sprawl across the 8,000 square foot concrete surface, and upon first glance resemble blood spatter. But with a little bit a patience, petals, feathers, vines and wings begin to appear. "From death grows life; from horror comes transcendence; hope emerges from despair."
Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili, 1999
Ofili's work is significant for the lawsuit it spurred against the Brooklyn Museum, brought by the easily offended Mayor of New York at that time, Rudolph Giuliani. Ofili's painted a black Virgin Mary, deemed "disgusting" by Giuliani—it was composed in part of elephant dung, which was inspired by the time Ofili spent in Zimbabwe. It also used clips of pornography, using close up cut-outs of women's genitalia to represent butterflies. At the very least, this painting raised questions about the politics of medium. Perhaps it was the collision of the sacred with the profane that so many found so uncouth. The painting was eventually damaged by an offended Catholic named Dennis Heiner, who smeared white paint over the canvas. He was given a $250 fine.
So Sorry/Remembering by Ai Weiwei, 2008/2009
In 2008, a 7.9 magnitude earthquake hit Sichuan, China, leading to the collapse of a number of schools and the deaths of thousands of children. The exact number of students that perished during the quake was never released. That didn't stop Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei from launching his own investigation into the shoddy workmanship of the schools, due to lax governmental regulations—at least 9,000 children died. At first, Ai Weiwei simply posted the names of the dead on his infamously radical blog. He later reprised the piece as part of a retrospective called So Sorry, referring to the rote apologies governments, corporations, and other large, publicly complicit bodies give to stave off any responsibility in the wake of disaster. A year later, he created the public installation Remembering, on the facade of Munich's Haus der Kunst. The work was comprised of nine thousand backpacks, spelling out the phrase, "She lived happily for seven years in this world" in Chinese characters. It was a quote from the mother of one of the children who died. "The lives of the students disappeared within the state propaganda, and very soon everybody will forget everything," Ai Weiwei said of the project.