1st Student's Major


1st Student's College

Arts and Humanities

Students' Professional Biography

Karen Obermeyer-Kolb was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Her family moved to Minnesota a year later and Karen grew up in Saint Paul. Her love of art and academics from a young age led to a quick decision of Art History as a main course of study, freshman year at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Karen received her Bachelor of Arts in Art History and French with a minor in Studio Art Spring of 2011. Academically, Karen would like to pursue graduate studies in Art History, but before returning to school she will be taking time off to gain work experience. Since graduation, she has been doing an exhibition internship at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, where she oversees maintenance of three exhibition spaces, helps with installation and deinstallation, and volunteers for special events hosted by the Book Arts. In the fall, Karen will begin a research internship at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, which will further prepare her for a future career as a museum professional.

Mentor's Name

Alisa Eimen

Mentor's Email Address


Mentor's Department


Mentor's College

Arts and Humanities


This paper analyzed the artwork of Xu Bing and his exploration of cultural values, specifically of language in China. Chinese is one of the oldest written languages of the world, with forms established by 1000CE. One of the purposes of classical Chinese calligraphy was self expression. The Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s brought a shift to this tradition by using large characters as propaganda. Xu Bing uses prominent symbols of culture and language, stemming from the classical teaching of his parents and his work experience during the Cultural Revolution, to convey views of society, as well as to challenge them. In "The Book from the Sky" he presents a confronting image of Chinese language in classical forms of scrolls and single sheets, which seems authentic but is in fact made with characters invented by the artist. The work shuns the idea of any meaning through reading and portrays the struggle of communication and keeping traditions alive. My paper argues that Xu Bing's artwork demonstrates how powerful cultural tradition can be in contemporary art. Culture provides the audience with easily recognized symbols and creates restrictions on the interpretation of the art.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License



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