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XU BING
(Chinese, B. 1955)
New English Calligraphy: A Noiseless Patient Spider, Opening the Brush; Holding the Brush
ink on paper and woodblock print, diptych
each: 70 x 190 cm. (27 1/2 x 74 3/4 in.)
Executed in 1996-2000

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Eric Chang
Eric Chang

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Lot Essay

Xu Bing has successfully built his international reputation as one of the leading Chinese avant-garde artists for his custom-designed Chinese calligraphy and other well-received series. The two works, New English Calligraphy: A Noiseless Patient Spider, Opening the Brush, Holding the Brush (Lot 475) and Quotation from Chairman (Lot 474), featured here in the Day Sale are the best examples from his noted New English Calligraphy series. They exquisitely demonstrate Xu's ability to cope with personal and political turbulence in his life and his courage to challenge the visual habits through forging his own art form, which ultimately allows art to transcend social and cultural backgrounds. Xu Bing's basic idea in these works is to merge the Chinese square character with Western spelling and encourage the viewer to practice according to his instructions. The non-Chinese readers are overwhelmed by their visual impact and beauty without having to confront their unintelligibility, while Chinese audience experience frustration first until realizing the artist's clever reliance on traditional forms to express profound contemporary ideas. Through this simple yet brilliant invention, Xu has attained multiple elusive goals for contemporary art. His works address philosophical questions of the era within contemporary aesthetic criteria that are enriched by traditional culture; they employ international visual language while recognizing ties to traditional Chinese art; and the viewer and the artworks are engaged in constant communication and active thinking.

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