Chinese artist Li Hongbo became a sensation when his kinetic paper sculptures made waves in Miami during Basel Week in 2013–causing nearly every piece in his follow-up show at Klein Sun Gallery to sell out before it even opened. Today Li Hongbo is presenting a new body of work in his solo exhibition, Textbooks, sure to cultivate a fresh frenzy for this extraordinarily skilled sculptor. Art Report sat down with Li Hongbo before his opening reception to hear more about this new series focusing on the importance and flaws of education.
Art Report: You are famous for your accordion-like paper sculptures. How did your process evolve to bound books?
Li Hongbo: Doing only one body of work is not engaging and each time I start a new series I want to approach it from a new point of creativity. The idea of using bound books came from thinking about how people are formed by what they learn and the environments they are thrust into–from what your mother and father teach you to your formal education. In particular, textbooks are fascinating because they are a physical influence on our lives and who we are and they have a direct effect on all of us.
AR: I read that this new series also addresses propaganda and distortions of history in education. What inspired this interest?
LH: It wasn’t a matter of choosing to address propaganda–it simply is inherent in textbooks. It is a part of the material. If education is your subject, [propaganda] exists. I’m exploring how we communicate and learn despite these clashes from reading different narratives. Form was a larger force for creation of the series–you notice that some of the pieces are in the forms of children and others are formless. For example, there is what appears to be a simple stack of books displayed in the corner but [the books] cannot be opened. The American textbooks are bound shut using a traditional Chinese method and the Chinese textbooks are bound shut using a traditional American method to further the point of the clashes and conflicts of our separate education.
AR: The children’s features are wonderful. Who are they modeled after?
LH: They’re all from my imagination.
Art Report: Do you have any children of your own?
LH: I have a son who is eight years old. And he is currently learning from textbooks.
AR: What’s next for you in 2016?
LH: I have a big solo show coming up at the National Museum of China in Beijing right next to Mao’s mausoleum. It will be relatively new work but it will also include my old sculptures.
We’ll be sure to keep an eye on that show, Li Hongbo! Textbooks will be on view at Klein Sun Gallery through February 13, 2016. Special thanks to Willem Molesworth, manager at Klein Sun Gallery, for translating during this interview. Don’t miss your chance to escape into a sanctuary of nostalgia for your schooldays through this excellently curated exhibition.