May 15, 2017

Block Printmaker Xu

        Xu Bing (China, b 1955) is an eclectic artist famous for large-scale installations in a variety of media, but he has a background in printmaking and often returns to it.  This first piece is an early one, wholly representational although stylized.  It almost suggests a schematic, with its electric wires across the top and water shore across the bottom, and the buildings arranged in a higgelty-piggelty grid filling the space between.  I like the rhythm of it.
        The second two pieces are both parts of Five Series of Repetitions, in which (as far as I can make out from various descriptions) 20 blocks were printed on a double-sided scroll.  Many of Xu’s works are large, multi-part installation pieces with grand philosophical meaning, although I couldn’t tell you what the meaning is.  But I like the tadpoles, especially in this season of vernal pools in my neck of the woods.  In the third piece, the rows of small plants resemble Chinese characters, a recurring theme that Xu has explored in many ways throughout his career.  In both of these pieces you can see that Xu was making a shift from representation toward more abstract and conceptual art.
        Xu has been something of a darling of the art world, even receiving a MacArthur “genius grant,” but I find that I like some of his work very much, while some I very much dislike.  These relatively small, straightforward wood block prints aren’t the sort of thing that makes him famous, but I judge an artist by his block prints!

        And here’s my sole previously featured X printmaker:

[Pictures: Shang Cheng (Mountain City), woodcut by Xu Bing, 1982 (Image from Booklyn);
Life Pond, woodcut by Xu, 1987;
Moving Clouds, woodcut by Xu, 1987 (Images from Ashmolean).]

A-Z Challenge, all posts for the letter X


Kristin said...

I thought I commented on this before but I guess not. I like the first one best. I guess I like little scenes of houses. The second one reminded me of swimming sperm when I first looked, but I guess tadpoles works too.

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

LOL - I suspect Xu wouldn't mind the sperm interpretation. Heck, with a title like "Life Pond" maybe you're right and my tadpole conclusion is off-base! I like the first one best, too - scenes of little houses please me every time.