The Wordsmith Xu Bing is one of the most important contemporary Chinese artists of the current Vicennial who is known for his printmaking skills and installations pieces which have an artistic use of language, words, and text. He challenges how these have affected our understanding of the world. Born in Chongqing in 1955, Xu grew up in Beijing. His father was the head of the history department at Peking University. In 1975, near the end of the Cultural Revolution, he was relocated to the countryside for two years as part of Mao Zedong’s “re-education” policy. Returning to Beijing in 1977, he enrolled at the Central Academy of Fine Arts where he joined the printmaking department and also worked during a short period of time as a teacher, receiving his Masters in Fine Art in 1987.
Due to the political pressure and artistic restrictions of the post-Tiananmen period in China, Xu Bing, moved to the United States in 1990 where he was invited by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He then resided in New York City until his appointment as vice-president of the Beijing CAFA in 2008.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words… or Not
One of Xu Bing’s most iconic work is called “Book From the Sky” in which he invented 4,000 characters and hand-carved them into woodblocks, then used them as a movable type to print volumes and scrolls. They displayed and laid out on the floor and hung from the ceiling. The vast planes of text seem to convey ancient wisdom but are in fact unintelligible. In the video below you can see more of Xu Bing’s ideology and process for the creation of his projects. He is truly gifted and applies all facets of his past and present life as well as incorporating current events and the times we are living in.
I don’t want the audience to have a very clear understanding of my works, that they can come to an immediate conclusion, about what I might be talking about.
I hope there is a variety of possibilitiesXU BING
An Evening with Xu Bing
Monday, September 24, 7:00 p.m. at The Museum of Modern Art This film accompanies the exhibit Xu Bing’s Dragonfly Eyes which runs at the museum from September 21–27, 2018 for tickets to the event click here.