January 8, 2013 | 1:00 PM
"We really need art to activate thinking."
— Xu Bing
Chinese-born artist Xu Bing makes conceptual art, but the concepts that he engages with are more approachable than you might imagine. Xu's recent work involves icons, informational pictograms that tell you where an exit is, where the food court is, or even how to open a bag of chips. It's no surprise then that the T-shirt Xu designed for "Friends of MOCA," a unique collaboration between Intel and Levi's, uses icons to tell a story. Intel and Levi's have enlisted Xu alongside artist Mariko Mori, musician Santigold, and actor/director Gael García Bernal to design limited T-shirts to be sold at select Levi's stores. "Friends of MOCA" will raise awareness and funds for The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles' educational programs.
MOCA's arts curriculum is called Contemporary Art Start, and it uses art to catalyze critical thinking by asking students to articulate responses to pieces of art. The communication between the analytic part of the mind and the creative part of the mind seem to be exactly what Xu's work elicits.
Here's a quick biography of Xu Bing. You can watch the artist speak about how technology helps him find new ways of communicating visually here, and learn more about MOCA's educational initiatives here.
Xu Bing was born in Chongqing, China, but grew up in Beijing. During the final years of the Cultural Revolution, he was sent to the countryside to perform farm labor as an "educated youth." He entered The Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in 1977, where he studied and taught in the printmaking department, receiving both his bachelor's and master's degrees there. In 1990, Xu moved to the United States, eventually relocating to New York in 1992. His work has been the subject of numerous solo and group exhibitions at museums spanning the globe and has been included in multiple art history textbooks. In 1999, Xu Bing received a MacArthur Fellowship and was awarded an honorary doctorate from Columbia University in 2010. He currently works out of his studios in Beijing and Brooklyn, and since January 2008 has served as Vice President of CAFA, his alma mater.