MacArthur Fellows Program

Xu Bing

Printmaker and Calligrapher | Class of 1999

Printmaker and Calligrapher
New York, New York
44 at time of award
Published July 1, 1999

About Xu Bing's Work

Xu Bing is an artist who uses ancient Chinese methods of printmaking and calligraphy to explore new dimensions for contemporary Chinese art.

Much of his work deals with the representation of language (using imprints, rubbings, and the tension between trace and erasure) and issues of meaning. Xu Bing’s installation, A Book from the Sky, consists of hundreds of pages of text using 4000 meaningless characters constructed from the elements of real Chinese characters. He carved each character on a wood block, and then printed the characters in books, on wall-sized sheets of paper, and on huge swaths of paper draped from the ceiling. His Ghosts Pounding the Walls is a large rubbing on rice paper of a portion of the Great Wall—both of its sides and walkway for about twenty feet. In his Tsan (silkworm) series, silkworms hatch from eggs spread over a text that they slowly obliterate as they spin their silk.


Xu Bing teaches calligraphy to students at various museums around the United States. He has had solo exhibitions in China, Japan, Australia, Africa, Canada, the United States, and throughout Europe.

Xu Bing received a B.A. (1981) and an M.F.A. (1987) from Beijing’s Central Academy of Fine Art. He emigrated to the United States in 1990.

Last updated January 1, 2005

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