Li Hongbo. Empathizing

Source Credit:  Content and images from Wall Street International Magazine by Wall Street International.  Read the original article - https://wsimag.com/art/66349-li-hongbo-empathizing

Eli Klein Gallery is honored to be presenting “Li Hongbo:
Empathizing” – the artist’s third solo exhibition with the gallery, showing 10 new sculptures
utilizing the mediums of stainless steel, cast iron, and rebar. Li Hongbo has received universal
acclaim for his “Tools of Study” and “Absorption” series, both of which were paper-based
maneuverable sculptures. Li’s mastery in metal was first critically acknowledged when, in
2017, he was awarded the coveted Sovereign Art Prize, which recognizes the most significant
contemporary art from the Asia-Pacific region. As an important continuity and progression of
his exploration in metal, the exhibition brings a selection of sculptures within this extended
oeuvre, showing Li’s sensitivity towards materials other than the use of paper. It invites the
viewers to empathize with the contemporary living experiences which are illustrated by the
sculpted figures. Such exploration of mediums has become a Li Hongbo speciality reflected in
his works from the past two decades.

The “Stage” series consists of 4 stand-alone sculptures, each approximately 10 feet in height
with a ballerina placed at its very pinnacle. Unlike the common expectation that a stage is a
somewhat spacious platform to be performed on, these “stages” amount to only a single dot of
space that connects the performer to what holds her upright. Poetically highlighting the human
dilemma of existence as independent beings, and at the same time, social animals, these 4
sculptures illustrate the bitterness of life – it is a fine line (or dot) to walk in between altruism
and selfishness. At the same time, the tall metal poles which are appearing merely to point
towards, can actually be interpreted as an extension of the dancers’ legs – an essential body
part that physically and psychologically links her to the earth – the ultimate stage that’s
without boundaries.

“Standard Space” is the series title of 5 sculptures depicting human figures each hunkered
down by the hundreds of thousands of rebar parts that press against his/her body from all
angles. These works manifest the constant battle between the sculptor’s subjectivity (to
sculpt) and objectivity (to be sculpted) as the sculptor inevitably sympathizes with what’s
being sculpted. From the viewer’s standpoint, as sculptors of our own lives, we oftentimes find
ourselves encompassed by the very material we have in hand – in this case rebars suggesting
the civilization which has resulted from the Industrial Revolutions. Li Hongbo believes that
almost all shapes were made out of these 5 standard shapes: sphere, cube, cylinder, cuboid,
and cone, each of which is represented by a stand-alone sculpture in this body of work.
Presented here, a seemingly primitive yet highly romanticized epistemology recalls Leibniz’s
Monadology and Spinoza’s Pantheism. Li Hongbo’s order doesn’t ask for a more methodical
approach, but only an open heart capable of empathy.

Ultimately, “Seasons of Flower – Rose,” the largest and
perhaps the most romantic sculpture in this exhibition,
demonstrates how we balance the need to exhibit and the
self-discipline not to. Unlike the figures detained in a world
of metal rebars in “Standard Space” sculptures, here the
relaxed figure emerges to show only signs of positivity.
However, Li Hongbo utilizes flowers as a metaphor that
symbolizes our desire for attention which is, unfortunately,
being constantly encouraged and rewarded. While we are so
accustomed to the new tradition of showing off on all
platforms, one must learn to deal with what is not displayed
publicly.

Li Hongbo was born in Jilin, China, in 1974. He earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Jilin Normal
University, Jilin, China, in 1996. He graduated from the Folk Art Department of the Central Academy of
Fine Arts in Beijing in 2001 and concluded his formal education with a Master of Fine Arts from the
Experimental Art Department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts, in 2010.

His work has been the subject of solo museum shows around the world including The Child with Scarf,
Asia Society Hong Kong Center, Hong Kong (2020); Li Hongbo: Bloom, Islamic Art Festival, Maraya Art
Centre, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (2019); Li Hongbo: Rainbow, China Paper Art Research Institute,
Jilin Normal University, Jilin, China (2018); Made in China – Li Hongbo Solo Project, Museum of
Contemporary Art Yinchuan, Yinchuan, China (2018); Li Hongbo: The Plastic Models that We Have
Painted, Beijing Normal University Jingshi Art Museum, Beijing (2017); Quand La Sculpture Devient
Créature, Musée du Papier, Angoulême, France (2017); Ocean of Flowers, Eight One Art Museum,
Beijing (2017); Li Hongbo: Irons for Ages, Flowers for Days, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, Georgia
(2015); Li Hongbo – Out of Paper, Kunstverein Ludwigsburg, Ludwigsburg, Germany (2013); and The
World -Li Hongbo New Works Exhibition, Found Museum, Beijing (2011).

His work has also been exhibited in museum group shows including A Tribute to Tradition: A Tour
Exhibition of Contemporary Paper Art Works, Today Art Museum, Beijing (2020); Clouds Gathering and
Unfolding: An Exhibition of Modern Chinese Art on Paper, Ichihara Lakeside Museum, Ichihara, Japan
(2020); Guns to Roses: From the Maitland Regional Art Gallery Collection, Maitland Regional Art
Gallery, Maitland, Australia (2020); Emerging Dimensions: Works by Li Hongbo and Cai Dongdong,
Pauly Friedman Art Gallery at Misericordia University, Dallas, Pennsylvania (2019); Transformative
Creation: 5 Artists from China, Oscar Niemeyer Museum, Curitiba, Brazil (2019); Havana Biennial: From
Chinoiserie to Contemporary Art, Havana, Cuba (2019); Memento Mons – Cabinets of Curiosities, Musée
des Beaux-Arts (BAM) Mons, Mons, Belgium (2019); Beijing: Jeollabukdo Express, Jeonbuk Museum of
Art, Jeonju, South Korea (2019); The Splendid Language of Paper – Contemporary Art on Chinese Paper
Making Culture, Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, China [itinerary: Naples National Archaeological
Museum, Naples, Italy] (2019); A Gift to 60th Year – The First Paper Art Exhibition of Chinese Paper Art
Research Institute of Jilin Normal University, Jilin Normal University, Jilin, China (2018); Emergence,
Toronto Centre for the Arts, Toronto (2018); Alter Ego, Macau Museum, Macau (2018); The Sixth
National Youth Art Exhibition, National Art Museum of China, Beijing (2018); Following Growth: The
CAFA Art Museum Graduate Collection and Recent Works, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum,
Beijing (2017); Reciprocal Enlightenment, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing (2017); Deep
Cuts, Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire (2017); Children of Hangzhou: Connecting
with China, Young at Art Museum, Davie, Florida (2016); TRANS-DESIGN 2016 Shanghai Art & Design,
West Bund Art Center, Shanghai (2016); CODA Paper Art, CODA Museum, Apeldoorn, The Netherlands
(2015); Forever Young, Asia University Museum of Modern Art, Taichung, Taiwan (2015); Metaplasia – La
China Ardente: Monumental Contemporary Sculptures, Anciens Abattoirs, Mons, Belgium (2015);
FLOW_1: Italian and Chinese Contemporary Art in Dialogue, Palladian Basilica, Vicenza, Italy (2015);
Experimental Art, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing (2014); Stacked & Folded Paper as
Sculpture, The Dennos Museum, Traverse City, Michigan (2014); Confronting Anitya, Palazzo Michiel,
Venice, Italy (2013); PaperWorks: The Art and Science of an Extraordinary Material, Berkshire Museum,
Pittsfield, Massachusetts (2013); Hot Pot, Brattleboro Museum, Brattleboro, Vermont (2013); All Our
Relations, 18th Biennale of Sydney, Australia (2012); Harmonious Differences – Second Experimental
Art Exhibition, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing (2011); Journey of a Thousand Miles, Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing (2010); and The Big Bang, White Rabbit Collection,
Sydney (2010).

Li Hongbo’s work is in the public collections of the White Rabbit Collection, Musée du Papier, Asian
Civilization Museum, Maitland Regional Art Gallery, Artemizia Foundation, Dr. Stanley Ho Foundation,
Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, National Art Museum of China, Wuhan Art Museum, Hubei Art
Museum, Wuhan, Shandong Art Museum, 53 Art Museum, Found Museum, United Bank of Switzerland,
and 21c Museum Hotels.

Li Hongbo has been the recipient of several prestigious awards throughout his career. Most recently he
received the Nomination Award from the China Government Publication Awards, and in 2017 he won
Grand Prize from the Sovereign Asian Art Foundation.
Li Hongbo currently lives and works in Beijing.

Source Credit:  Content and images from Wall Street International Magazine by Wall Street International.  Read the original article - https://wsimag.com/art/66349-li-hongbo-empathizing