Art Radar links to a video interview by ARTINFO with contemporary Chinese artist Xu Bing, an artist who is known for his unique approach to Chinese characters, calligraphy and printmaking. Filmed in his New York studio, Xu talks about his art, latest projects and life in China and the US.


Xu was born in Chongqing and brought up in Beijing, but moved to America in 1990. Four years ago, the artist was invited to be the vice president of the Central Academy of Fine Art (CAFA) in Beijing, his alma mater. On his return to China, Xu reflects, “When I went back, I realised that the country had become completely different since the time I left. It’s different in the way the country is run, the system it employs, and people’s perception of life.”

Before moving to the US, Xu was influenced by the works of Marcel Duchamp and Andy Warhol. By the time he moved to New York, however, Xu relates to ARTINFO that there was no artist in particular who he felt inspired by. Instead, “the influence was more from the city and the whole art scene, … from the atmosphere and the bigger picture of the art world”.

At the end of the video interview, Xu introduces a project that he has just finished working on, called Book from the Ground.

It corresponds with an earlier work called ‘Book from the Sky’. It’s a novel written in a language of icons. It narrates a person’s daily life and work.

The most interesting part of this project, says the artist, is that “regardless of your cultural background, anyone can understand it”. Publication of the Book from the Ground in Taiwan coincides with the artist’s current same-titled solo exhibition in Shanghai Gallery of Art.

Two more solo exhibitions, “Tobacco Project” and “Square Word Calligraphy“, are currently on show at the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield until 10 June 2012, and at the Katonah Museum of Art in Katonah, New York, until 26 August 2012, respectively.

In “Tobacco Project”, Xu Bing employs tobacco as a subject and an object of the exhibition. A variety of installations attempt to explore the history and importance of tobacco culture in the state of North Carolina.

The exhibition “Square Word Calligraphy” features large, multi-paneled works with the texts of poems and songs by Robert Frost and Tang Dynasty poet Wang Wei, as well as lyrics of songs by Bob Dylan and children’s nursery rhymes written with the help of a unique technique created by the artist himself that makes English words look like Chinese characters.

Xu recently recently participated in the group exhibitions “Print/Out” at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York earlier this spring, and “Cryptograph: An Exhibition for Alan Turing” at Spencer Museum of Art in Lawrence, which will be on display till 20 July 2012.


Related Topics: Chinese contemporary artists, Xu Bing, video posts

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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