Chinese artist Xu Bing is known for his socially conscious prints and installations. (Photo courtesy of Museum MACAN)

'Beautiful Pessimist' Xu Bing Gets Solo Exhibition at Museum MACAN

BY : ANTARA & NUR YASMIN

JUNE 14, 2019

Jakarta. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Nusantara, better known by its acronym MACAN, will feature a solo exhibition by award-winning Chinese artist Xu Bing on Aug. 31 until Jan. 12 next year.

The exhibition, "Xu Bing: Thought and Method," will showcase 60 of his works from the past 40 years and will be the artist's first and largest exhibition in Southeast Asia.

Xu, born in Chongqing in 1955, was one of many artists and intellectuals in China who were relocated to the countryside in the 1970s as part of Mao Zedong's "re-education" policy. 

The two years that Xu spent in the countryside since 1975, near the end of Mao's Cultural Revolution, influenced the way he saw language, especially how it was used as a political tool.

After the Tiananmen Square tragedy in 1989, Chinese authorities started cracking down on artists who were critical of the government. Xu, by that time known for his printmaking and installations, moved to New York and settled in the United States until 2008, when he was appointed vice-president of the Beijing Central Academy of Fine Arts. 

Early in his career, Xu was obsessed with the intermingling of traditional culture, language and systems of knowledge.

While living in New York, he began to combine Western and Chinese elements to reflect on political and cultural issues.

Xu is a true multimedia artist, adept at moving between and combining prints, graphic arts, installations, films and archival material in his work. He is best known for his 1998 installation Tianshu (The Book of Sky), a collection of calligraphic text that actually translates to gibberish. The work has been called by critics as "stunningly beautiful yet pessimistic."

"To be a good artist, one must be a good thinker. If the artist only has a good thought, he can become a great philosopher. But his name will never be recorded in history if he can't find an artistic way – a method free from normative cultural concepts – to present his idea," Xu said in an interview with MACAN.

"Xu Bing: Thought and Method" is a collaboration between MACAN and the UCCA Center for Contemporary Art in Beijing, where the exhibition debuted in October last year.

Before you go to MACAN to marvel at Xu's thoughts and methods, check out also the museum's current exhibition, "Dunia Dalam Berita" ("The World in News"), which explores the emergence of contemporary art before and after Indonesia's political reformation. It features works by ten of the best Indonesian contemporary artists and will be on view until July 21.

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