Created specifically for the Brooklyn Museum in consultation with curator Susan L. Beningson, this painting by one of China’s most important living artists celebrates Xu Bing’s close relationship with Brooklyn, where he lived in the 1990s and still has a studio today. Square Word Calligraphy: Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, Walt Whitman pays homage to Walt Whitman, the famous American poet, who served as an early librarian at the Brooklyn Apprentices’ Library Association (our predecessor). His now-iconic poem “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” is part of his collection Leaves of Grass and celebrates the idea that all of us are united in our shared human experience. 2019 marks Whitman’s 200th birthday, and this exhibition includes material from our Archives to celebrate his relationship to the Museum.
Xu Bing (b. 1955) developed Square Word Calligraphy as a new way of rendering the English language after he came to New York in the early 1990s. The hybrid calligraphy incorporates English words in rectangular arrangements that resemble Chinese characters. This interplay between form and language reflects Xu Bing’s experience in New York, where he lived between two cultures.