Xu Bing's Series of Repetition at the Reopened MoMA


Xu Bing’s Series of Repetition in MoMA. © Xu Bing Studio


Xu Bing’s Series of Repetition along with Huang Yong Ping’s sculpture Palanquin (1997) in MoMA © Xu Bing Studio

The Museum of Modern Art in New York reopened its doors on October 21, 2019, unveiling its new look to the public after its four-month extensive renovation. The expansion allows the museum to polish their new narrative of modern art, unearthing a variety of artists from their significant collection.   Xu Bing’s Series of Repetition, a series of 10 prints, is exhibited on the second floor along with other works by Chinese contemporary artists, as part of MoMA’s newly curated permanent collection show.


Created in 1987-88, Series of Repetition marks the early years of Xu Bing’s artistic practice in printmaking and anticipates his decisive turn towards conceptual art afterwards. The set of woodcut prints depicts rural scenes, recalling Xu Bing’s experience in the countryside before entering the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing.

This set of prints was selected from experiments and studies for Xu Bing’s Fives Series of Repetitions (1987-88), an experiment in exploring the artistic qualities that make printmaking unique. He began by printing an uncut block of wood and continued making a sequence of prints as he carved the block, recording the corollary additions and deletions on the printed page, until the image was entirely effaced. The entire mark-making process was transferred onto a ten-meter-long stretch of bark paper. The image thus transitions from a formless solid block of black, and through a complicated process arrives at a formless solid block of white, a gesture with a strong Zen Buddhist implication. By doing so, Xu Bing pushed the medium of printmaking to a new territory.

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Five Series of Repetition - 4 , 1987. © Xu Bing Studio

Five Series of Repetition, Installation view at Elvehjem Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, USA, 1991. © Xu Bing Studio