Wu Street Wu 街
1993

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Exhibited: Xu Bing: Recent Work, The Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York
Materials: found oil paintings, falsified magazine article.

The title of this work refers to the Chinese name of a Manhattan street located on the Lower East Side. On this street, the artist salvaged a group of non-representational oil paintings from the garbage, providing the catalyst for this conceptual piece.
''Wu'' in Chinese has various meanings, including both ''misunderstanding'' and ''enlightenment'' in the Chan (Zen) sense. This dichotomy between understanding and misunderstanding is integral to ''Wu Street.'' Xu paired the salvaged paintings with a ''profoundly deep'' article by a critic interpreting the abstract paintings of the renowned artist Jonathan Lasker. Xu's intention was to demonstrate his feeling that the critic's opaque interpretation of Lasker's works could just as well be applied to the salvaged works. As a next step, Xu altered the critical text by substituting the real names and art works with false names and illustrations of the found paintings. He then hired a professional translator to translate the altered text into Chinese, making it even more incomprehensible, and subsequently published the falsified, translated article in a prestigious art magazine in China under the pseudonym of Jason Jones. On the surface, Wu Street appears to be no more than an elaborate practical joke; yet it poses serious questions concerning the contemporary art system, the often arbitrary nature of critical language and the basis for assessing the value of art.