Booklyn Artists Alliance

Xu Bing, Brooklyn, NY


photo: Jeff Morgan/Artes Mundi

Booklyn is proud to present the artwork of Xu Bing. Books, prints, installations, workshops and lectures by Xu Bing are all available via Booklyn.

Catalog of Books, Installation, and Workshops—

Shattered Jade, 1977/1982
Five Series of Repetition, 1983–6
Artist Proof pages from Book From the Sky, 1989
Tobacco Project: The Red Book, 1999
The Tides Story, scroll, 2006
The Tides Story, unique book, 2006
An Introduction to Square Word (New English) Calligraphy Books, 1994
A Book from the Sky, 1989
The Post Testament connoting Today's Standard Version, 1993




Shattered Jade, 1977/1982

Alternately titled Broken Jade the blocks were started in 1977, the prints were never editioned and the blocks have long been lost, only a sequence of A.P.'s from the early 1980's remains.


Xiao Yuan Dong Jing (Little Courtyard Winter Scene),, A.P., 1982, woodcut.


Xiao Peng Chuan (Little Tented Boats),, AP, 1982, woodcut.


Cun Tou (Village Entryway),, AP, 1982, woodcut.


Shan Cheng (Mountain City),, AP, 1982, woodcut.


Five Series of Repetition, 1983–6

(Prints from the center states of the project.)
Caso-duode Dao-ying (A Reflection of Straw),
Five Series of Repetition, 1986, 12/50, woodcut

Ku-tan (Dried Pond),
Five Series of Repetition, 1986, 2/10, woodcut

Yi Tiao Da-he (A Great River),
Five Series of Repetition, 1986, 12/50, woodcut

Yi-yun (Moving Cloud),
Five Series of Repetition, 1985, A/P, woodcut

Shan-zhuang (Mountain Villa),
Study leading to Five Series of Repetition, 1983, A/P, woodcut


Artists Proof pages from The Book from the Sky,1987–1991

Woodcut, each page in an edition of 15 to 20, (original edition of 99 sets of books of 4 volumes).





The Tides Story, 2006


scroll edition of 6
Illustration, Spanish translation, Spanish calligraphy: Eliana Perez
Original poem in English and English calligraphy: Marshall Weber
Illustrations, calligraphy: Xu Bing
Mandarin Chinese translation: Jesse Coffino-Greenburg, Zhai Yong-ming

A large printed scroll composed of original pen and ink calligraphy and drawing, scanned and Iris printed on Japanese Mitsumata paper at Laumont in NYC, 11 inches x 60 feet in an edition of six.

Xu Bing, Weber, and Perez, join together to create a unique and profound reading experience. Multi-lingual calligraphy flows wavelike through a seascape horizon, interrupting the conventional act of reading and translation and thus renewing the practices of reading and writing as overt parts of the aesthetic experience. The painting and calligraphy integrate with the subject matter and the book within its form and function. The metaphorical components of salty blood, ink and seawater suggest the exchange of communication and the actions of the waves. The wind is replicated in the actual book design as it engages the reader both physically and intellectually with its production of waves—which are the primary form of material movement of light, sound, heat, and liquid.


The Tides Story, 2006


Eliana Perez, Marshall Weber, and C.K. Wilde, unique book (the original template for the above scroll)
Illustration, Spanish translation, calligraphy: Eliana Perez
Original poem in English and calligraphy: Marshall Weber
Illustrations, calligraphy: Xu Bing
Mandarin Chinese translation: Jesse Coffino-Greenburg, Zhai Yong-ming

Pen and ink calligraphy and drawings, on handmade paper, 9” x 6”, 60 pages. Binding by Christopher Wilde with silk covered boards.


An Introduction to Square Word (New English) Calligraphy Books, 1994

Red Line and Intro books.jpg

The deluxe, limited-edition Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy rubbing book is hand printed from hand carved woodblocks on rice paper and butterfly bound with wood covers and enclosed in a wood case, all created entirely in traditional Chinese style.

Intro. to Squ. Word.jpg

It is accompanied by one copy of the Red-Line Tracing Book, machine printed from hand in red ink on yellow rice paper and bound in a booklet format. Printed in 2001, edition of 99, signed.

The simple version of the Introduction to Square Word Calligraphy Book is machine printed on regular white paper and bound in the same booklet format of the Red-Line Tracing Book. It is also accompanied by one copy of the Red-Line Tracing Book. Printed in 1994-1996, 350 editions, signed.

These sets of books provide instruction and practice space for the basic principles of New English Calligraphy, a writing system invented and designed by the artist.

Essentially, New English Calligraphy is a fusion of written English and written Chinese. The letters of an English word are slightly altered and arranged in a square word format so that the word takes on the ostensible form of a Chinese character, yet remains legible to the English reader. As people attempt to recognize and write these words, some of the thinking patterns that have been ingrained in them since they learned to read are challenged. It is the artists' belief that people must have their routine thinking attacked in this way.

New English Workshop.jpg

New English Calligraphy workshops by the artist prompt this attack (with the assistance of instructional videos and copybooks). While undergoing this process of estrangement and re-familiarization with one's written language, the audience is reminded that the sensation of distance between other systems of language and one's own is largely self-induced.


A Book from the Sky, 1987-1991


Edition of 100 sets of 4 volumes. Each set includes: 1 walnut-wood box (49 x 33 x 10cm), containing 4 books (46 x 30 x 8.5cm total) with a total of over 500 pages of hand-carved woodblocks of unrecognizable words which are hand-printed with water-based ink on special rice-paper used for Buddhist books and hand-bound with thread using traditional Chinese binding technique. Within each set, the 1st and 2nd volume are printed in regular text format, the 3rd volume is printed in Buddhist book format, and the 4th volume is printed in dictionary format.

carving book from the sky.jpg

A Book from the Sky took Xu Bing over four years to complete. The installation is comprised of hundreds of printed volumes, ceiling and wall scrolls containing a vocabulary of four thousand 'false' Chinese characters invented by the artist and then painstakingly hand-cut onto wooden printing blocks. Each set of books is a complete wood cut edition, printed with the same four thousand word vocabulary as used in the installation volumes.

Within the exhibition space, numerous sets of open, hand-printed books propped on specially designed wooden mounts are installed in rows on the ground. Ceiling scrolls billow down over the books, and hanging scrolls are mounted on the surrounding walls. The materials and techniques used in the production of these elegant objects all followed the prescriptions of classical Chinese printing, scroll design and bookbinding. Yet the texts they contain are all written in 'false characters' that resemble Chinese characters but are in fact virtually unintelligible. As a result, within this fabricated cultural space, every reader is made illiterate. Even the artist himself is unable to read the works he has printed. The artist's intention is to produce a kind of cultural shock that will heighten the viewer's awareness of received notions of language and culture. Since its debut exhibition in Beijing in 1988, Book from the Sky has been exhibited at venues all over the world. The work has generated a great deal of critical attention and discussion, and has been published in a number of major art historical studies.

Three different versions of the installation of Book From the Sky are in the collections of:
Queensland Art Gallery
Hong Kong Museum
Ludwig Museum

Individual sets of Book From the Sky are in the collections of:
Princeton University
Harvard University
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum
The British Museum


Tobacco Project: The Red Book, 1999

Printed in 1999, 19 single box quotes, signed and numbered, in editions of 5, and 7 double box quotes (long quotes are printed on 2 separate boxes of cigarettes that are sold together), in editions of 5.


Commissioned by Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, this project focuses on the University's historical connection to Durham's `tobacco culture' and its economic ties to the cultivation and sale of tobacco products.


It also addresses the related historical issue of the impact on China of the large-scale exportation of tobacco products to that country from the U.S. beginning in the late 19th century. Xu created a series of multi-media installations incorporating the materials, processes and consequences of tobacco manufacture (Xu Bing's father died of lung cancer in a Beijing hospital). The works were exhibited in diverse venues throughout the city, including the University's Perkins Library, the Durham Tobacco Museum, and an abandoned tobacco manufacturing plant. In exploring the complex connections between people and tobacco, the project's ultimate exploration is of fundamental issues of human culture.


The POST-TESTAMENT connoting Today's Standard Version, 1993


A printed and bound book with religious and secular texts, printed in 1994, in an edition of 250. The book looks like a weighty tome of literary significance.


The content of the book, however, presents quite a different story: a strange, hybrid text which the artist created by combining the King James Version of the New Testament with that of a trashy contemporary novel, through alternating each word of the texts. As a result, the only way to read the complete text taken from either book is to skip every other word. Yet, regardless of which narrative the reader is focused on, the visual presence of the other narrative cannot be avoided, creating a visual imprint on the reader's mind. The hybrid text thus generates a new and abnormal reading pattern.


At the same time and on another level of cognition, it creates a kind of third narrative that limns the border between avant-garde literature and visual art. Post Testament also allows readers to engage with highly loaded texts that are removed from their usual connotations.

Read a blog about this book here by Julie Mellby at Princeton.


Xu Bing was awarded the first Artes Mundi prize, an art award created here to stimulate interest in contemporary art in Wales.

Xu Bing was born in Chongqing, China in 1955 and grew up in Beijing. In 1975, he was relocated to the countryside for two years during the Cultural Revolution. In 1977, he enrolled in the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beijing, where he studied printmaking. He received an MFA from the Central Academy in 1987. In 1990, he moved to the United States and he still lives there today, making his home in Brooklyn, New York.

In July of 1999, Xu Bing was awarded the MacArthur Award for Genius by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in recognition of his originality, creativity, self-direction, and capacity to contribute importantly to society, particularly in printmaking and calligraphy.

Selected solo exhibitions:
2005 Xu Bing, Mori Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan
2004 Tobacco Project: Shanghai Shanghai Gallery of Art, China
Elvehjem, Madison, WI
Museum of East Asian Art, Berlin, Germany
2003 Chinese Art Centre, Manchester, England
Fukuoka Asian Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan
Hong Kong Arts Centre, Hong Kong
Book From the Sky, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ
2001 Arthur Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC
Elite Gallery, Taipei
2000 National Gallery of Prague
1998 New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York
1997 Joan Miro Foundation, Mallorca
1997 Institute of Contemporary Art, London
1988 National Gallery of Beijing

Selected Group exhibitions:
2005- Regeneration, national tour, USA
2004- On the Edge, national tour, USA
2002 Guangzhou Triennial, China
2002 Sydney Biennial, Australia
2002 Kwangju Art Museum, Korea
2001 Victoria and Albert Museum, London
1999 Museum of Modern Art, New York
1999 P.S. 1, New York
1999 Museum Ludwig, Koln
1999 San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
1998 ICC, International Communications Center, Tokyo
1994 Reina Sofia National Art Center, Madrid
1993 45th Venice Biennial, Italy

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