Xu Bing - Editions & Works on Paper New York Tuesday, October 24, 2023 | Phillips

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  • While pursuing his master’s degree in printmaking at the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, Xu Bing became increasingly interested in the element of repetition that characterizes the print medium. This curiosity culminated in Five Series of Repetitions, which was presented as part of his 1987 master’s thesis project and marked the artist’s decisive turn towards conceptualism, foretelling Xu’s continued exploration of visual culture and materiality in printmaking and large-scale installations.


    Five Series of Repetitions functions as an experiment in the artistic qualities that make prints unique despite their repetitive forms. For the project, Bing made an impression at each state of the printmaking process to show the evolution of carved woodblocks over time. This began with the artist making an impression from an uncarved woodblock that resulted in a solid black print, then proceeding to carve the block and print these states, evolving towards the present depictions of fields, mountains, and ponds. Once these scenes had been established on the block, Bing then continued through this typical final state by slowly chipping away at the representational forms and making impressions at various stages until a blank white “print”, representing the block after the raised surface had been completely carved away, was all that remained.


    Originally mounted successively in a strip, the complete scope of the project illustrated the progression from nothing to something to nothing again, in accordance with the Buddhist cycle of life, death, and rebirth. This oscillation between nothingness and somethingness additionally anticipates the artist’s desire, expressed later in his career, to “make something useless”—to push the medium of woodcutting, the usefulness of figuration. The present prints thus reflect a figurative midway point in this early series, in which the aerial scenes of the idyllic natural world are fully carved, their forms not yet carved away towards oblivion.

    • Catalogue Essay

      Including: Black Tadpoles; Haystack Reflection; Moving Cloud; Life Pond; A Big River; A Place With Mountains; Black Pond; Field; Cropland; and Dry Pond.


Five Series of Repetition

The complete set of 10 woodcuts, on Japan paper, with full margins.
all I. approx. 21 1/2 x 28 1/2 in. (54.6 x 72.4 cm)
all S. approx. 26 x 35 5/8 in. (66 x 90.5 cm)

Signed in Chinese and Pinyin, stamped with the artist's seal, titled in Chinese, dated and numbered 31/50 in pencil (there were also some artist's proofs), published by the artist, all framed.

Full Cataloguing

$30,000 - 50,000 

Sold for $57,150

Contact Specialist

212 940 1220

Editions & Works on Paper

New York Auction 24-26 October 2023