XU BING RETROSPECTIVE

 Xu is most famous for his special focus on and manipulation of language and typography.  In this retrospective, the museum will bring together and examine the most important works formative and representative of his international career from 1980s to today.  Highlights of this retrospective include Book from the Sky and Book from the Ground. 

In the late 1980s, Xu invented 4,000 authentic-looking Chinese characters and spent over a year hand-carving them into wood blocks and type. Those hand-printed, unintelligible characters formed Book from the Sky (Tian Shu).   Xu’s Book from the Sky was originally created to express his feelings about popular culture at that time.  Following Book from the Sky, Xu Bing worked on a completely different project-Book from the Ground (Di Shu)--a book he claims that everybody, regardless of cultural background or educational levels, can read.  In Book from the Ground, Xu tried to develop a new kind of communication system relying on universal symbols, such as the icons and logos that people around the world come across every day in places such as airports and bathrooms.  Everybody can feel the restraints traditional languages place on modern society, adding that his intention was to create a way of communication using the simplest, most direct and common signs.  Xu’s inspiration for the universal signs was drawn from the ancient Chinese form of pictographs. The modern Chinese written language is based on using pictures for words, and the characters have developed over thousands of years. Xu developed his new language using his keen sense of art, which grasped the real essence of common signs from his everyday life and frequent travels. 

Book from the Sky showed his dissatisfaction toward the current language system while the Book from the Ground revealed his ideals for a common language applied to people all over the world, he added.  With both books, Xu also tried to convey a universal message: Everybody is equal in their approach to the two books, as one is unreadable while the other is understandable to all. Reading them does not depend on the viewer’s culture, social status, ethnicity, or education.  From the thorough denial of the value of language to the earnest search for a trans-cultural communication tool, language has always been at the core of Xu’s artistic works.

Xu Bing’s creative manipulation of language has also touched upon English words, a foreign language for him. In the mid-1990s, Xu invented what he calls “Square Word Calligraphy.” He arranged English letters in squares to make the words look like Chinese characters, yet they remain legible to the English speaker.

 Xu Bing was born in Chongqing, China in 1955. In 1977 he entered the printmaking department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing (CAFA) where completed his bachelor’s degree in 1981 and stayed on as an instructor, earning his MFA in 1987. In 1990, on the invitation of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he moved to the United States. Xu currently serves as the Vice President of CAFA.


徐冰回顾展

徐冰最有名的是他对语言和印刷术的关注和操纵。在这次的回顾展中美术馆将收集他从八十年代至今的国际创作生涯里最重要、最具代表性的作品。展览亮点包括《天书》和《地书》。

八十年代末徐冰发明了4000个看上去能以假乱真的汉字并花了一年的时间把这些汉字手工雕刻在木板上。这些手工刻印的无解汉字构成了《天书》的主体。徐冰最初是想借《天书》表达他对当时流行文化的一些感受。这件作品完成后徐冰转向了一个完全不同的项目——《地书》。他宣称这是一本无论文化背景和教育程度人人都能读得懂的书。在《地书》中徐冰试图开发一种建立在通用符号基础上的新的交流系统这些符号是世界各地的人们在日常生活中经常看到的比如机场和卫生间的标志。每个人都能感受到传统语言对现代社会的种种限制除此以外他还希望用最简单、最直接的符号创造一种交流方式。徐冰对普遍性符号的向往来自中国古代的图形文字。现代书写汉字诞生之初全部是表意图像经过几千年的发展最终形成今天的体系。徐冰利用他对艺术良好的直觉开发新的语言准确把握了日常生活和频繁旅行中普通符号的真实内涵。

《天书》表现了他对目前语言系统的不满而《地书》则显示了他对理想语言的设想具有普遍性能被世界各地的人理解。徐冰也希望通过这两本“书”传达一个普遍信息对于这两本书每个人的解读都是平等的正如其中一本没人能读懂而另一本人人都读得懂。阅读这本“书”不取决于观者的文化、社会地位、民族或受教育程度。从完全否认语言的价值到努力追求一种跨文化的交流工具语言始终是徐冰艺术创作的核心。

徐冰对语言的创造性操纵也扩大到了英语。九十年代中期他发明了所谓的“方块字书法”把英文字母放入方格使其看上去像汉字一样但同时对于英语读者来说又是可以辨认的。

徐冰1955年生于中国重庆。1977年进入北京中央美术学院版画系学习1981年本科毕业后留校做讲师1987年获硕士学位。1990年应威斯康星大学麦迪逊分校邀请徐冰移居美国。目前他在中央美院任副校长一职。