press release

Kishio Suga. Situations

Situations, the first European retrospective dedicated to Kishio Suga (b. 1944 Morioka, based in Ito, Japan), curated by Yuko Hasegawa and Vicente Todolì, is on view at Pirelli HangarBicocca until January 29, 2017. For the first time in the career of this pivotal figure in contemporary Japanese art, over 20 of his installations, dating from 1969 to the present, are shown together in a single exhibition space. The exhibition is part of events celebrating the 150th anniversary of relations between Japan and Italy.

Suga was among the prime movers of Mono-ha, a current that enriched the contemporary art scene from the late 1960s on. In 1978, he was chosen to represent Japan at the Venice Biennale, introducing the West to an artistic language in which the investigation of materials and space is rooted in a deep affinity to nature and the environment.

Situations brings together a series of pieces the artist has adapted to the industrial architecture of Pirelli HangarBicocca. Forging an intense relationship with the vast spaces of the Navate, it unfolds along a single path that balances lightness and gravity, linearity and tension, solidity and intangibility. In keeping with his practice, Suga’s works are presented here as temporary projects which exist for the duration of the show, site-specific in both a spatial and temporal sense.

The exhibition highlights the common threads and experimental nature of the artist’s oeuvre, presenting a landscape of organic and industrial elements—iron, zinc, wood, stone, and paraffin—materials which he often finds on site. At Pirelli HangarBicocca, the pieces therefore take on new qualities and characteristics that differ from previous versions.

The exhibition reflects on the historical importance of Suga’s paradigmatic practice—which developed in a period of intense international experimentation in the 1960s and 1970s, marked by movements like Postminimalism and Land Art in the United States and Arte Povera in Italy—while capturing the unique, contemporary nature of the artist’s thought.

In addition to the exhibition at Pirelli HangarBicocca two other important institutions are paying homage to Kishio Suga in 2016: the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh is presenting the two-artist exhibition Karla Black and Kishio Suga: A New Order curated by Julie-Ann Delaney and Simon Groom (October 22, 2016–February 19, 2017) and Dia Art Foundation is holding a solo show at Dia:Chelsea in New York City curated by Jessica Morgan and Alexis Lowry (November 5, 2016–June 30, 2017).

After graduating from the painting department of Tama Art University in Tokyo in 1968 and working as a studio assistant for American artist Sam Francis, Kishio Suga began making and showing his work at a time of great artistic ferment in Japan. The years between 1969 and 1972 witnessed the emergence and growth of Mono-ha, a movement that also included Kōji Enokura, Noriyuki Haraguchi, Shingo Honda, Susumu Koshimizu, Lee Ufan, Katsushiko Narita, Nobuo Sekine, Noburu Takayama, and Katsuro Yoshida. Although the term Mono-ha literally translates as “School of Things,” the artists were neither an organized group, nor were their individual practices exclusively focused on things or objects. Their diverse work was united by the choice to use simple materials (both natural and industrially manufactured) as a means to explore the relationships between the individual, matter and surrounding space. Their works were often the result of direct, interactive actions, such as suspending, dropping, breaking and stacking. Mono-ha is therefore centered on both the material properties and the performative dimension of the artwork. These thematic and formal aspects can be seen as having a resonance with the Italian movement of Arte Povera.

Curated by Yuko Hasegawa and Vicente Todolí

About Kishio Suga
Kishio Suga (b. 1944 in Morioka, Japan) lives and works in Ito, Japan. He has been exhibiting his work since the late 1960s. In recent years his work has been shown at many institutions around the world, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo (2015); the Jewish Museum, New York (2014); Punta della Dogana, Venice and The Warehouse, Dallas (2013); and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2012). In 2000 he took part in the 3rd Gwangju Biennale and in 1978 he represented Japan at the 38th Venice Biennale.