Elvehjem examines relationships in two exhibitions

Aug. 24, 2004

by Barbara Wolff

Two new exhibitions exploring different kinds of relationships will open the 2004-05 season at the Elvehjem Museum of Art.

The interplay between words and meaning always fascinates contemporary artist Xu Bing, who incorporates traditional Chinese characters, English letters, contemporary conceptualism and craftwork to invite visitor interaction.

Photo of Xu Bings installation, called

Artist Xu Bing hangs his installation, titled "Net," in the Elvehjem Museum of Art. He designed it for the museum's Paige Court. Two new installations open Saturday, Sept. 4. Photo: Bob Rashid

Two installations will open Saturday, Sept. 4, and remain up until Sunday, Nov. 28. "Square Word Calligraphy Classroom" in Brittingham Gallery VII encourages experimentation with Xu Bing's square calligraphy font. "Touching Without Touching" in Brittingham Gallery VI looks at how new technology affects human communication.

Xu also installed "Net," a work designed expressly for the Elvehjem's Paige Court, in June. It consists of 1,000 words from Henry David Thoreau's "Walden." The text is composed in 9-inch cast-aluminum letters, which spill in a random downspout onto the floor below. "Net" will be on view until June 2005.

Xu grew up in Beijing. During the Cultural Revolution, the government relocated him to the countryside, where he witnessed how extremists manipulated language and the written word. He says now that this forced participation in the revolution led him to mistrust language, which has become the theme of much of his work.

He will attend a free public reception held in his honor on Friday, Sept. 3, at 6 p.m. at the Elvehjem. He will discuss his work at 5 p.m. in L160 Elvehjem. In addition, visiting scholars will present insights into Xu's work during October.

The impact of Japanese prints on Frank Lloyd Wright's architectural vision will be the subject of "Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan," opening at the Elvehjem on Saturday, Sept. 4. It will be on view through Sunday, Nov. 7.

Wright made no secret of his admiration for the lean, unadorned Japanese style. By 1907 he had amassed enough Japanese prints of his own to mount an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1915-16 he became a purchasing agent in Japan, and helped establish some of the most important collections of Japanese art in the United States.

For more information or a complete schedule of events, visit the Elvehjem's Web site: http://www.lvm.wisc.edu or call 263-2246.