Xu Bing was born in Chongqing China in 1955. His mother was a librarian and his father was the head of the history department at Peking University. In 1975 the Cultural Revolution was coming to an end in China. As a part of Mao Zedong's "re-education" policy he was moved into the countryside and forced to work as a sign painter making propaganda.This experience eventually became the foundation to the work he would make. In 1977 he returned to Beijing and enrolled in the Central Academy of Fine Art to study printmaking. He earned his masters in 1987, and later in 1990, moved to the United States because of the pressure being put on artists after Tiananmen Square. He lived in the States until being appointed the new vice president of the China Central Academy of Fine Arts in 2008.
Xu Bing often uses calligraphy and sculpture in his work to explore his experiences with communication. He is most known for his piece Tianshu or Book from the Sky. This installation was made of rows of hanging scrolls that filled a room. On these scrolls were over 4,000 character that he had designed to look like like Chinese text but were actually meaningless.
Another piece he is known for is New English Calligraphy, a projected he started after living in the United States for four years. He designed characters that were made to look like Chinese but are actually made out of English words. He then gave lessons on how to write in these characters. When New English Calligraphy is displayed he often uses nursery rhymes to give an example.
Xu Bing started his tobacco projects when he was invited to be the artist-in-residence at Duke University in 2000. He was interested in the Duke Family history which led him to tobacco. This led to a series of work using cigarettes, and tobacco. The most known of these is a tiger skin rug made from around a half a million cigarettes. Tiger-skin rugs are a symbol go human dominance. “It confirms our superiority by transforming one of nature’s fiercest predators into a lifeless skin beneath our feet.” Xu Bing also compares the way fur and skin rugs can glamorize hunting with the way smoking can often be glamorized. Other projects that were a part of this series included prints on tobacco leaves, a tree with branches made of matches, and a compressed cube of tobacco with the words “light as smoke” on the top o
by Ren Ta
Dinh Q Le. is a contemporary, fine arts photographer who is known for his works of addressing war, especially the Vietnam War, and Cambodia's influence on Vietnam. Born in 1968 in the town of Ha Tien, Vietnam, a small town that was on the near the border of Cambodia, Le lived there in turmoil and anguish for the first ten years of his life. In 1979, he escaped to Los Angeles, California from the ruthless invasion by Khmer Rouge. From there on out, he started his studies at the University of California, where he studied photography, and later graduated in 1992 with a MFA from the School of Arts, New York. Now, for half a year at a time, he lives in his four story studio in Ho Chi Minh City, where he also started an artist-run exhibition space that advocates for young Vietnamese artists. For the other half of the year, he spends in Los Angeles where the rest of his family resides.
Divided by the upbringings of his Western life and his Vietnamese roots, Dinh Q. Le creates art that visually represents his hybrid life. In 1989, Le took a class on the Vietnam War that focused on the hardships of Americans and from there it ignited his interests in the contrasts of Vietnam and Western relations with conflict. Using these these themes of nostalgia, remembrance, and identity, his later works of photo weaving evokes all the emotions that makes him the internationally acclaimed artists that he is today.
The intricate intertwining of photos was influenced by Dinh Q Le's aunt that taught him how to weave as a child. Le's aunt would teach him how to weave traditional Vietnamese grass mats, in which those techniques that he learned are still used today in his most famous works. It was important that Le learned these techniques at that time due to the state of conflict and anguish he was constantly in. Le lived in an area that was one of the most dangerous cities in Vietnam due to the Cambodian invaders. This trauma could easily be seen as a spark to his passion and interest in war and its relation to Vietnam. He started this photo-weaving in a series he did in 1989, where he wove himself a self portrait of large scale photos of himself and images of Italian Renaissance paintings into one.
One of the most influential works he has ever produced is a series called Cambodia: Splendor and Darkness in 1997. It was of his signature photo weaving that included images of complex carvings found in temples from the county of Tuol Sleng, Cambodia and the devastatingly painful portraits of the victim taken by the Khmer Rouge. This series was prompted by his visitation to Angkor Wat and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum when he traveled to Cambodia after he returned to Vietnam for the first time since his flee. He was amazed and at the same time appalled by the distinguishable contrast between the beautiful temples of the Khmer Empire and the cruel history that Cambodia represented centuries later.
Now-a-days, DInh Q. Le collects historic artifacts as much as he can and incorporates it into his recent artworks. This series is called Crossing the Farther Shore, where he displays photographs from the the 1940s-1980s. The juxtaposition of the photographs are meant to be given off as a display of a collection of data and how the Southern Vietnamese people were living like. The images are only of few records that have slipped out of the North Vietnamese' communist governments grasp as a way to erase the history of the South during the pre-1975 era.
"Dinh Q. Le (Vietnamese- American, b. 1968)." Gund Gallery, http://www.thegundgallery.org/2015/02/dinh-q-le/.
Kolesnikov-Jessop, Sonia. “How Vietnamese Artist Dinh Q Lê Manages to Create Beauty with Tragedy.” Prestige Online - Society's Luxury Authority, Hubert Burda Media, 22 May 2018, prestigeonline.com/sg/art-culture/-/beauty-tragedy-artist-dinh-q-le-captures-cambodias-dark-past/.
“Dinh Q. Lê.” ArtAsiaPacific: Bharti Kher, artasiapacific.com/Magazine/85/DinhQLe.