The hottest ticket in Boise on Feb. 6 didn't guarantee entry into a nightclub featuring a platinum-selling recording artist or a seat at a screening of an Oscar-nominated film. Instead, it promised an opportunity to witness a sold-out appearance by "The Invisible Man."
International sensation Liu Bolin stood on a modest platform to allow the packed-to-capacity audience in the Boise Art Museum's sculpture hall to catch a glimpse of the man who deliberately disappears into iconic images. Bolin visited Boise as part of the much-anticipated Liu Bolin: Hiding in the City exhibition, in plain view at BAM through Sunday, May 24.
"Thank you, everybody," said Bolin, uttering the only sentence he would speak in English that evening. Bolin, a native of Shandong province, China, spoke with the aid of interpreter Kent Chao, a recent retiree of Hewlett-Packard.
"People know about my photos best, but my background is in sculpture," Bolin said.
That was the first of many surprises of the evening. Bolin's sculptures, primarily of the human-form, are spectacular and sculpting remains a passion—but most people are familiar with his photographs, which also include a human form: Bolin. The artist camouflages himself into background images, which began as a form of protest after he watched his village destroyed by a wrecking ball.
"It came out of personal anger—not just myself but my fellow countrymen," Bolin said. As he spoke, one of his first works appeared on a screen behind him, showing an historic building turned to rubble, with Bolin blending into the destruction. The image was the first of many to inspire "oohs" and "aahs" from the audience.
For the following 45 minutes, attendees watched photos of Bolin disappearing—into the streets of Venice, Italy; a dried-out riverbed in China; a huge stack of lumber; and even a wall of thousands of cellphones—flash on the screen.
As thrilled as Bolin's audience was to shake his hand and thank him for flying from Beijing to Boise for the event, they were just as anxious to be among the first to see Liu Bolin: Hiding in the City at BAM, which is now open to the general public.
Before saying goodbye, Bolin held up his smartphone and snapped a panoramic photo of the hundreds of attendees.
"Be careful," Chao said. "This may appear in his next project."
And just like that, Bolin disappeared.