Xu Bing, Phoenix Project, 2007–10. Construction debris and light-emitting diodes, 2 elements, 27 and 28 meters long.

Xu Bing

Beijing and Shanghai

Today Art Museum and Shanghai Expo 2010

Xu Bing’s two enormous, 28-meter-long Phoenix sculptures are a pastiche of dangling three-dimensional tales chronicling China’s past, present, and future. Images of these mythical birds dying in flames, then shooting up, reborn from their ashes, have appeared for at least 4,000 years, beginning with early Shang Dynasty pottery motifs. Referred to as fenghuang, the phoenix is both feng (male) and huang (female) and is traditionally associated with the Chinese empress. Actually a composite of many birds, it sports the head of a golden pheasant, the body of a mandarin duck, the tail of a peacock, the legs of a crane, the mouth of a parrot, and the wings of a swallow. Each Chinese dynasty developed its own version, and Xu searched the different interpretations to find his exact approach. …see the entire review in the print version of March’s Sculpture magazine.