Drawing inspiration from the contemporary realities of his fast-changing country, Chinese artist Xu Bing spent two years creating his newest work, Phoenix. The installation features two monumental birds fabricated entirely from materials harvested from construction sites in urban China, including demolition debris, steel beams, tools, and remnants of the daily lives of migrant laborers. At once fierce and strangely beautiful, the mythic Phoenixes bear witness to the complex interconnection between labor, history, commercial development,
and the rapid accumulation of wealth in today's China.
This is the premier appearance of the sculpture outside China (the works were exhibited briefly outdoors at the Today Art Museum in Beijing, and then at Expo10 in Shanghai). At MASS MoCA, the internally illuminated 12-ton birds are suspended mid-air inside the museum’s football field-sized Building 5; dwarfing visitors, the male Phoenix Feng measures 90 feet long, while the female Huang reaches 100 feet in length, beak to (steel) tail feathers.
Phoenix is the centerpiece of an exhibition of related art by Xu Bing, widely considered to be among the most important Chinese artists working today.
An opening reception took place on April 27, in conjunction with the installation of a “second chapter” of the exhibition. On the eve of the opening, Xu Bing spoke for more than an hour, reflecting with humor and grace on his work of the past two decades.
The installation of Phoenix was an intense logistical exercise captured in this time-lapse from JACKADAM. The score is courtesy of Wilco.
Phoenix Project was commissioned by Ravenel Art Group and is on loan courtesy of the collection of Mr. Barry Lam. MASS MoCA is grateful for exhibition support provided by the artist’s studio; Sheffield Plastics; Eslite Gallery; Beautiful Asset (Beijing) Industry Co., Ltd.; E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation; Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Massachusetts Cultural Council; Robert Lehman Foundation; Helen & Will Little; Rene Balcer & Carolyn Hsu-Balcer; Hugh Freund; Cynthia Hazen Polsky & Leon Polsky; Alex G. Cao & Tina Wong; Jim Schwarz; and an anonymous donor. Additional funding for the exhibition catalogue is provided by the W.L.S. Spencer Foundation.
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