─ Monumental Masterpieces Pioneered Chinese Contemporary Art Onto the Global Stage and New Works Transcend Language/Cultural Barriers ─
─ Complete Showing of Iconic “Book from the Sky” Installation Rarely Exhibited in its Entirety ─
Xu Bing: Writing Between Heaven and Earth opens on Saturday, February 21 at the Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum FIU. Acclaimed worldwide for propelling contemporary Chinese art onto the global stage with his epic installations, Xu Bing has been invited from Beijing to Miami to present a lecture on February 21st from 4:00-5:00 p.m. and the opening reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public. The artist’s lecture is at the University’s Graham Center GC140 (seating is expected to fill quickly, registration in advance is recommended to firstname.lastname@example.org).
The exhibition encompasses 5,000 square feet and features the artist’s iconic installations plus newer artworks that provoke viewers to challenge their perceptions of cultural identity and language, including a never-before seen artwork that Xu Bing is creating specifically for this exhibition at the Frost Art Museum (through May 24 at 10975 S.W. 17 Street, Miami, FL 33199 – link to map/directions and hours).
“The Frost Art Museum is thrilled to present Xu Bing: Writing Between Heaven and Earth,” says the museum’s Director, Dr. Jordana Pomeroy. “We have devoted all of the space in our Grand Galleries to offer this rare opportunity to view the complete, iconic Book from the Sky in its entirety alongside a majestic series of powerful recent installations, in addition to the artwork Xu Bing created to debut at the Frost Art Museum.”
Due to its massive scope and size, only a handful of museums in the world have shown the complete Book from the Sky including all of the hundreds of original components and handmade carvings, which took the artist four years to complete.
“This exhibition crowns the Frost Art Museum’s triumvirate series Three Giants of Contemporary Chinese Art,” adds Dr. Pomeroy, “which began last summer with Simon Ma, continued through Art Basel season with Wang Qingsong, and culminates now with Xu Bing – one of the world’s most acclaimed Chinese artists.”
Trained in China during the 1970s as a Master Printmaker, Xu Bing was born in Chongqing in 1955 and grew up in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution. A core tenet of his work is the preservation of Chinese culture and traditions. Chinese characters and traditional landscapes feature prominently in his work.
The artist is recognized globally for his large-scale installations about language and text, playfully recreating the written word and inspiring viewers to re-evaluate their ideas about cultural identity and language.
“My aim is to make an art that truly serves the people,” said Xu Bing.
(English words “Art for the People” shaped as Chinese characters)
This exhibition brings together Xu Bing’s Shu-related masterpieces to demonstrate the art of writing as image. The character Shu (書) in ancient Chinese signifies books, written characters and the act of writing.
This exhibition presents the Shu art of Xu Bing, from his Tian Shu (Book from the Sky) to Di Shu (Book from the Ground) with several installations in between. Together, they create a grand, Zen-like tranquil space that draws viewers deep into a serene atmosphere to engage with the artworks. The exhibition at the Frost Art Museum is curated by Dr. Lidu Yi, a professor and historian of Chinese art at FIU. “The thought-provoking artworks of Xu Bing will challenge viewers to reconsider their perceptions about written language and cultural identity” says Dr. Yi. “This exhibition focuses on Chinese indigenous heritage, Chinese characters and traditional landscape painting.”
The focal installation is the complete Book from the Sky – four years in the making – featuring more than 4,000 illegible Chinese characters invented by the artist, meticulously hand-carved pieces, more than 160 volumes of hand-made woodblock-printed books, huge scrolls hanging from the ceiling and poster-sized wall panels resembling propaganda-style posters.
“It shocked Heaven and Earth and made the ghosts and sages weep, as the ancient Chinese proverb says,” adds Dr. Lidu Yi.
Book from the Ground is an interactive staging of two computers … …
running chat software that lures visitors to simultaneously decode universal signs and symbols …
Square Word Calligraphy Classroom is constructed as a classroom with an instructional video, model books, ink, brushes, brush-stands, and blackboard with the creation of a one-of-a-kind writing system that transforms English into Chinese … …
viewers will personally experience Square Word Calligraphy Classroom (by using traditional calligraphy brushes and ink) and will see how Chinese students learn to write Chinese characters by tracing … …
but with Xu Bing’s clever twist: these characters also turn out to be comprised of English letters …
(see above how the English words “Little Bo Peep” and other words in English are disguised as Chinese character shapes)
Another section of the exhibition presents the artist’s Suzhou Landscripts which at first glance appear to be traditional Chinese landscape paintings … …
but upon closer inspection reveal Chinese logographic script writing, in which the water is composed of the word for water and the mountains are composed of the word for mountain …
More about Xu Bing …
The artist’s trajectory includes periods of banishment and re-acceptance by the Chinese. He became famous in China and internationally during the 1980s with his landmark installation Book from the Sky, which revealed how the written word can be turned into propaganda and rendered meaningless. After the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, his work was deemed too controversial and the artist moved to the U.S. the following year.
While living abroad, Xu Bing received numerous awards including the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award Fellowship, the very first Artes Mundi Prize (Wales International Visual Art Prize), the Fukuoka Asian Cultural Prize, and the Southern Graphics Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
His return to China included the appointment in 2007 to his current position as Vice President of Beijing’s renowned Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA). The artist now lives and works in Beijing and New York.
Prominent exhibitions of Xu Bing’s work include shows at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, the Louvre, the Joan Miro Foundation in Spain, the British Museum, the National Gallery of Prague, the Museum Ludwig, the 45th and 51st Venice Biennales, the Biennale of Sydney, the Johannesburg Biennale and the Sao Paulo Biennale.
Just prior to his opening at the Frost, Xu Bing will be honored by Secretary of State John Kerry at a ceremony in Washington, DC celebrating seven international artists for their commitment to the State Department’s Art in Embassies program.
Xu Bing: Writing Between Heaven and Earth is made possible thanks to the support of the Jane Hsaio Endowment.
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum at Florida International University opened its current 46,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art building in November 2008. Admission to the Museum is always free. The Frost is an American Alliance of Museums accredited museum and Smithsonian Affiliate, and is located at 10975 SW 17th Street, across from the Blue Garage and adjacent to the Wertheim Performing Arts Center on the Modesto A. Maidique Campus. Hours of operation are Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. Closed on Mondays and most legal holidays. For more information, please visit thefrost.fiu.edu or call 305-348-2890. twitter.com/frostartmuseum facebook.com/frostartmuseum.