Xu Bing 徐冰, ‘Book from the Sky 天书’, ca. 1987-91, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

徐冰 天书
Each book open: 18 1⁄8 × 20 in. (46 × 51 cm)
Three ceiling scrolls, each: 38 in. × approx. 115 ft. (96.5 × approx. 3500 cm)
Each wall scroll: 9 ft. 2 1⁄4 in. × 39 3⁄8 in. (280 × 100 cm)

Image rights: Photo: courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Ink Art: Past as Present in Contemporary China, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2013-14

Lent by the artist

About Xu Bing 徐冰

Pioneering Chinese contemporary artist Xu Bing creates powerful, poignant mixed-media installations, in which he subverts systems of language, upending expectations and perception. He explains that his works “are all linked by a common thread, which is to construct some kind of obstacle to people's habitual ways of thinking—what I call the ‘cognitive structures’ of the mind.” Trained as a printmaker, Xu is informed by the Cultural Revolution, Chan Buddhism, and his keen interest in the relationship between meaning and words, writing, and reading. He has famously re-invented Chinese characters and the English alphabet, rendering Chinese nonsensical and English into legible Chinese characters, effectively challenging comprehension of both. In Book from the Sky (1987-91), Xu filled a gallery with scrolls and books hand-printed with 4,000 “false” Chinese characters—a stunning commentary on the subjectivity of language and its meaning.

Chinese, b. 1955, Chongqing, China, based in Beijing, China