Kishio Suga is a leading figure of the Japanese art movement known as Mono-ha (School of Things), which was active in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After studying under Yoshishige Saito at Tama Art University, he created site-specific artworks, placing plain materials such as lumber, stone, metal, and sheets of glass in space to create new relationships between the things and the place or between one thing and another.
He has always used everyday materials in his works and kept the amount of manual work to a minimum. The titles are coined words composed of Chinese characters chosen by the artist, and they demonstrate Suga’s strong interest in concepts. What makes Suga different from other conceptual artists is his believe that concepts exist in physical things before they are put into an artwork and the task of the artist is to listen to these concepts. Suga has spoken in a number of texts and interviews about seeing “things that cannot be seen” in physical materials. His theoretical statements have given a strong conceptual underpinning to the art of Mono-ha.
Suga devotes a great deal of time to these acts of seeing in a stage that comes much earlier than the actual making of the work. He once wrote, “People think of a concept as something invisible. But as long as the materials have form, there are cases in which the form of the materials shows the form of the concept” (Kishio Suga, “From Notes – Simple Condition” (May 1, 1969), Existence). In line with this statement, he makes careful and repeated attempts to transform the “things that cannot be seen” into material form while carrying out direct acts of fabrication with the materials. As a result of this process, the work comes to have an extremely pure form. Suga hopes that the viewer will be drawn into the intense and quiet dialogue that takes place between him and the materials prior to selection of the form. By doing so, viewers come to see the “things that cannot be seen” in the physical materials of the work and enter into a conversation with them.
The Mono-ha movement flourished during the same period as American Minimal Art and Italian Arte Povera. In the art scene of the 1960s and 1970s, many artists became concerned with things as such, which had previously been nothing more than components of artworks, and how humans perceive these things. This approach was a worldwide tendency that appeared in many places at the same time and became a fascinating topic for art critics. Many exhibitions have been organized to showcase this movement since “Reconsidering Mono-ha” at the National Museum of Art, Osaka in 2005. In February of this year, a major Mono-ha exhibition, “Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha,” was held at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles. It was curated by Mika Yoshitake, a curator at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. It is likely that the Mono-ha will continue to attract international attention from now on.
This exhibition is composed of photographs of outdoor installations made by Suga in the 1970s, a large relief work entitled Surrounding and Connected Scenery (1998), and more recent works.
Suga has placed his art in all sorts of outdoor locations. He has created these works on site in relation to nature with minimal human action and without concern for the presence of viewers. The photographs in the present show are documentary photographs of these outdoor works taken by the artist. The dialogue between the artist and materials becomes quite lively in natural sites such as woods or a pond. Surrounding and Connected Scenery was shown in “Version – Kishio Suga” at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Art Museum in 1998. This piece was 40 meters long and covered a large wall of the museum. Constructed of orange-painted wooden panels, connected and extended by aluminum rods, it dynamically dominated the exhibition space. The same work will be rearranged to suit the space of our gallery for this exhibition. Recent floor pieces are also included in the show.
In an artist’s talk given at the Tomio Koyama Gallery in February 2008, Suga declared,
Just as human beings have inner awareness, things also have an inner power, what might be called inner potential. How can inner potential be seen? How can it be made manifest? Without the coming of awareness, things cannot be seen. Whatever we see must be recognized as existing on the verge of creativity. Otherwise, it is not possible to make things creatively.
This statement explains the meaning of the words Suga chose for the title of this exhibition, ““Placement of the Hidden Currents.” We hope that many people will take the opportunity of seeing it.
» Artist Biography:
Kishio Suga was born in Morioka, Iwate prefecture in 1944 and graduated in painting from Tama Art University in 1968. In a career spanning more than 40 years, from his first solo show in 1968 to the present, he has participated in many exhibitions. Major museum exhibitions devoted to his work include “Kishio Suga – Stance,” Yokohama Museum of Art, 1999 and “Kishio Suga,” Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art and other venues, 1997. This exhibition is his third solo show at the Tomio Koyama Gallery since 2008. As an important figure in the history of modern Japanese art, he was featured in the 38th Venice Biennale (Japanese commissioner, Yusuke Nakahara); “Japon des avant-gardes – 1910-1970,” Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 1986; and “Scream Against the Sky: Postwar Japanese Art,” Yokohama Museum of Art and The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1994. Suga is presently participating in “Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha” at Blum & Poe Gallery, Los Angeles. His work is in the collections of the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum and other museums throughout Japan. A Suga work was recently acquired by the Tate Modern in London.