Xu Bing Solo Exhibition opens in Wuhan
December 1st, 2017, Wuhan — Artist Xu Bing’s solo exhibition “Xu Bing,” hosted by the United Art Museum and CEC Optics Valley, supported by the Ullence Center for Contemporary Art, and curated by Feng Boyi and Wang Xiaosong, opened at the United Art Museum, Wuhan.
Over the past three decades, Xu Bing has followed multiple threads of thinking and created a variety of artworks, impressive in quantity and style. Clear in expression and sharp when tackling issues, Xu Bing's work is sui generis among contemporary art and he keeps influencing the landscape of Chinese contemporary art at different levels. This exhibition, for the first time in mainland China, presents a comprehensive and concentrated survey of Xu Bing’s art. Yet it is not a simple retrospective nor summary. Instead, through artworks, the exhibition reveals Xu Bing’s artistic method and the core motivation of his constant thinking.
The works exhibited can be roughly divided into the following three groups. Firstly, the exhibition features Xu Bing’s complete projects, usually impressive in scale and thoroughness, which have already had wide impact, exhibited along with relevant archives and sketches. They include: Five Series of Repetition, Ghost Pounding the Wall, “language series” (Book From the Sky, Square Word Calligraphy, Book From the Ground, Forest Project, etc.), “animal series” (A Case Study of Transference, “Silkworm” series, etc.), Tobacco Project, Where Does the Dust Itself Collect?, “Background Story” series, The Mustard Seed Garden Landscape Scroll, The Character of Characters, and Dragonfly Eyes.
Secondly, “hidden” in between the above-mentioned works that are widely known as Xu Bing’s signature works, are many incomplete experimental pieces. They convey a stronger sense of experiment and invention, not easily categorized as “art” or “design” in a general sense. However, these “fragments” leave hints for people to track down Xu Bing’s creativity. The exhibition provides case studies of Xu Bing’s art being extended and applied to different fields, demonstrating the practical and social value of art that he pursues and advocates. Moreover, due to various reasons, most of them have never been exhibited in mainland China before; they might only be recorded on Xu Bing Studio’s inventory list as a prequel or unfinished sequel of some of his magnum opus.
Thirdly, Xu Bing emphasizes in his art witty responses to different situations, spaces and scenarios. In the exhibition, new pieces tailored to the space expand the artworks. In addition to showing Xu Bing’s work, the exhibition follows his chronology to integrate his life experiences and recordings and writings of his artistic practice into the space. Thereby, the audience can explore the art world of Xu Bing while traveling with his thoughts.
Indeed, this exhibition provides an opportunity to closely and comprehensively appreciate Xu Bing’s works; nonetheless, we hope that the exhibition itself, like Xu Bing’s art, is able to reward something beyond expectation in an approachable way, and able to invite the audience to understand the artist’s thinking from various perspectives. We hope that the audience can experience Xu Bing’s honest attitude towards art, as well as the inexhaustible power in his modest works. We are also expecting that the exhibition could give the audience some enlightenment from the connection between Xu Bing’s approach of art and his intellectual contribution to today’s world. It is our goal to allow every viewer to rediscover oneself from Xu Bing’s art and to think out of the box, even just a little bit.
Every piece of work, regardless of its type and previous popularity, has its own reason and ways of being included and having impacts in the exhibition. Considering Xu Bing’s artistic thinking and conditions of his artworks, as well as the exhibition space, architecture, and urban environment of the United Art Museum, we try to emphasize the organic relations among the artworks and to render an immersive experience for the audience, thereby making the museum part of Xu Bing’s artist expression. The sense of “traveling” and the rhythm of the architectural space embodied within the exhibition will create its own on-spot and irreproducible appeal. Also worth anticipating is that the museum overturning the tradition of opening during the day and instead offering a “night show.” Not only will the opening take place in the evening but the exhibition will also open at night Tuesday - Saturday during the entire exhibition period – a nighttime museum, a nighttime experience to see Xu Bing’s art. The unusual format of the exhibition in turn corresponds to Xu Bing’s creative principle that is to contemplate art issues outside of the art system.
The museum also sets up a reading area, displaying exhibition catalogues and academic publications on Xu Bing’s art, as well as his personal writings. The artist’s documentaries and video materials will also be screened in different places at the exhibition. We believe that the audience with various backgrounds and expectations will be able to find their own path of approaching “Xu Bing.” Meanwhile, we also invited several scholars worldwide, who are devoted to contemporary social and cultural research and have long-term interest in Xu Bing’s art, to write critiques, and they will consist as a part of the exhibition’s archive and will be published by the end of the exhibition.
During the day of opening (December 1st) from 15:30 to 17:00, Professor Han M. De Wolf from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) will give a lecture titled "Xu Bing and Marcel Duchamp: The Hidden Mechanics of Language in the Service of the Human Soul" in the atrium of the United Art Museum.
The exhibition will be on view until May 8th, 2018. A series of education programs will be held.