Square Word Calligraphy: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Walt Whitman
This painting was created by Xu Bing specifically for the Brooklyn Museum’s new galleries for the Arts of China. The painting reads from left to right, following English word order, and from top to bottom in columns, as in traditional Chinese texts. It also includes an artist’s seal using Square Word Calligraphy, in red ink. The work is composed of a title and colophon, followed by the first verse of “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by the poet Walt Whitman.
Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,
By Walt Whitman
Calligraphy by Xu Bing
An artist who used to live in Brooklyn.
Flood-tide below me! I see you face to face!
Clouds of the west—sun there half an hour
high—I see you also face to face.
Crowds of men and women attired in the
usual costumes, how curious you are to me!
On the ferry-boats the hundreds and
hundreds that cross, returning home, are
more curious to me than you suppose,
And you that shall cross from shore to shore
years hence are more to me, and more in my
meditations, than you might suppose.
Ink on paper
a (mounted): 48 13/16 × 89 3/8 in. (124 × 227 cm)
a (unmounted): 39 × 74 in. (99 × 188 cm)
b (mounted): 48 13/16 × 89 3/8 in. (124 × 227 cm)
b (unmounted): 39 × 74 in. (99 × 188 cm)
frame (a): 94 5/16 × 52 5/16 × 2 1/2 in. (239.6 × 132.9 × 6.4 cm)
frame (b): 94 3/8 × 52 1/4 × 2 1/2 in. (239.7 × 132.7 × 6.4 cm) (show scale)
Gift of Xu Bing to the Brooklyn Museum in honor of his father
The painting consists of two panels (a, b).
The first verse of Walt Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" written in "square word calligraphy," the hybrid writing form invented by the artist. This writing system consists of English words written with letters arranged in bunched stacks resembling Chinese characters, reading from top to bottom but left to right, using small red circles as periods.
The first column consists of the title in larger characters at the top: "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," folowed by two columns of smaller characters reading "by Walt Whitman" and "Calligraphy by Xu Bing an artist who once lived in Brooklyn, two thousand and eightteen."
At the bottom of the last (right) column, the artist's seal appears in red.
This item is not on view
Xu Bing (Chinese, born 1955). Square Word Calligraphy: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Walt Whitman, 2018. Ink on paper, a (mounted): 48 13/16 × 89 3/8 in. (124 × 227 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Xu Bing to the Brooklyn Museum in honor of his father, 2018.24a-b. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: , 2018.24a-b_PS11.jpg)
overall, 2018.24a-b_PS11.jpg., 2019
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© Xu Bing Studio
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