February 21, 2022
June 20, 2020
Kishio Suga (b. 1944, Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, Japan) works in multiple media, spanning site-specific installation, assemblages, works on paper, and performance. Suga moved to Tokyo in 1964 to study oil painting at Tama Art University. Soon after graduating in 1968, he diverged from the mode of illusionistic painting that was popular at the time and gained recognition for arranging natural and manmade materials in unprecedented installations. Works from this period include Parallel Strata (1969), a totemic enclosure made of paraffin wax, and Soft Concrete (1970), four vertical steel plates arranged into a square and shored up with a mound of oil-infused concrete. These works and his influential early essays situated him as one of the key practitioners and theorists among a loose group of artists who collectively came to be known as Mono-ha (“school of things”), who took natural and industrial materials and arranged them in mostly unaltered, ephemeral states. Suga describes his approach as an ongoing investigation of mono (things/materials) and the jōkyō (situation) that binds them. This "activation of existence" focuses as much on the interdependency of these various elements and the surrounding space as on the materials themselves. Almost none of Suga’s historical site-specific installations exist today; typically, they were discarded at the close of each exhibition. However, the artist has remade them on numerous occasions since the mid-1980s, when Mono-ha began to receive institutional recognition in Europe. While his re-creations are always based on an original core concept, they are not intended as exact replicas; Suga adapts their scale and constituent parts to the characteristics of each site. The artist has developed a holistic view of art’s existence in the world from his broad readings of philosophy, ranging from Jean Baudrillard and Gilles Deleuze to Kitarō Nishida, Keiji Nishitani, and Mahāyāna Buddhism. Suga currently lives and works in Ito City, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan.
Over the past five decades, Suga has had numerous solo exhibitions in Japan, including retrospectives at the Iwate Museum of Art, Morioka, Japan (2021), Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan (2015), and the Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan (1997). In recent years he has been the focus of renewed international interest, beginning with his inclusion in Requiem for the Sun: The Art of Mono-ha, curated by Mika Yoshitake and held at Blum & Poe, Los Angeles in 2012. This large-scale survey was the first overview of the movement in North America. Blum & Poe subsequently presented Suga’s first solo exhibitions in Los Angeles in 2012 and New York in 2015. He subsequently held his first European retrospective at Pirelli HangarBicocca, Milan (2016) and his first solo museum exhibition in the United States at Dia: Chelsea, New York, NY (2016). Suga is frequently included in global survey exhibitions, most recently: Collection: The Aesthetics of Contemporary Japan, National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan (2020); DECODE: Events & Materials — The Work of Art in the Age of Post-industrial Society, Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan (2019); Minimalism: Space. Light. Object, National Gallery Singapore, Singapore (2018); Japanorama. New vision on art since 1970, Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France (2017); Parallel Views: Italian and Japanese Art from the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, The Warehouse, Dallas, TX (2013); Prima Materia, Punta della Dogana, Venice, Italy (2013); and Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2012). A re-creation of his groundbreaking outdoor installation Law of Situation (1971) was displayed in the Gaggiandre shipyard at the 57th Venice Biennale, Italy (2017). His work is featured in many institutional collections, including the Centre Pompidou-Metz, Metz, France; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX; Glenstone Foundation, Potomac, MD; Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi; Long Museum, Shanghai, China; M+, Hong Kong, China; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan; National Museum of Art, Osaka, Japan; National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo, Japan; Pinault Collection, Venice, Italy; Rachofsky Collection, Dallas, TX; Tate Modern, London, UK; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Tokyo, Japan; and the Yokohama Museum of Art, Yokohama, Japan, among many others.
Kishio Suga: Writings, vol. 1, 1969–1979
Kishio Suga: The Existence of “Things” and the Eternity of “Site”
Kishio Suga: Situations
Kishio Suga: Situated Latency
Kishio Suga 1968-1988
Karla Black & Kishio Suga: A New Order