New Artist Li Hongbo Has Arrived!
Amazing New Artist Li Hongbo
Li Hongbo is one of the most ingenious new artists I have heard about in a long time. His works are nothing short of incredible and they are made with paper, thousands of sheets of paper.
Li Hongbo and his art were brought to my attention via one of those forwards that are sent through email. The forwarded email containing information about Li Hongbo and his works was sent to me by my youngest sister who received it in her email and thought it so unique and amazing that she believed I would want to see it. She was correct. I love it!
Notes of Interest
What Is a Plinth?
In sculpture, a plinth is a heavy base supporting a statue or vase.
In architecture, a plinth refers to the lower square slab at the base of a column.
The Invention of Paper
Paper was first invented in China in 105 CE. There is some disagreement about the year, as some scholars believe paper was in fact invented some 250 years earlier.
The History of Science and Technology: A Browser's Guide to the Great Discoveries, Inventions, and the People Who Made Them from the Dawn of Time to Today, edited by Bryan Bunch and Alexander Hellemans, published by Houghton Mifflin Company
Li Hongbo Has Always Loved Paper
Paper craft and paper art have been favorites of mine for a long time. I love the versatility of paper and the fact that it is usually inexpensive to work with and one can do so many different things with it. Paper art goes well beyond greeting cards and scrapbooks.
I have seen some truly amazing works of paper art, and Mr. Li’s creations are nothing short of surprising, and awesome. I am spotlighting Li Hongbo’s busts in this article, but he has many other kinds of sculptures also, and all are flexible sculptures.
Born in Siping, Jilin, China on January 7, 1974, into a farm family, Li Hongbo as an adult graduated from Jilin Normal University of Fine Arts, in 1996. He went on to graduate from the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing in 2001 with a MFA (Masters of Fine Art) in folk art, and finally he graduated from that same institution with a MFA in experimental art in 2010. He now lives and works in Beijing.
Mr. Li said he has always loved paper. "At the beginning, I discovered the flexible nature of paper through Chinese paper toys and paper lanterns, “ Mr. Li explained to one interviewer, as an explanation about what first inspired him to think about paper in a different way.
What Does CE and BCE Mean?
Most of us are accustomed to seeing the letters A. D. and B. C. in history books, but here CE is being used when talking about the invention of paper.
I learned in school that A. D. meant After Deity, and that B. C. meant Before Christ. When searching for what the letters CE meant and why they were being used, I was informed that CE stands for Common Era. I was also informed that BCE meant Before Common Era. There is to be no more use of A. D. or B. C., because that has been replaced by CE, and BCE.
The reason for the change is out of deference to people who are not Christians and who object to God’s name being used generally to designate time.
Li Hongbo Sculpture Is Surprising and Incredible!
At first glace Mr. Li’s busts look like classic sculptures one might commonly see in museums and libraries and other cultural buildings. They appear to be made of porcelain or plaster until one of the museum gallery assistants lift them up for viewers to see how much like a paper slinky they are. The busts weigh about 30 pounds each on average.
To make his extraordinary sculptures Mr. Li uses a stencil to paste glue in narrow strips across large pieces of paper that he then sticks together to form blocks of 500. He stacks the blocks to the desired height -- an average bust is over ten blocks or 5,000 sheets of paper high -- then cuts, chisels and sands the large block just as if it were a piece of soft stone.
Who would have thought paper could be manipulated and molded in a way not so different from harder materials? To form the faces of his sculptures, Mr. Li uses a band saw. For the finer features of the sculpture he uses an angle grinder.
Gallery assistants pull the sculptures around on their plinths for visitors, but visitors are not allowed to touch the pieces themselves leaving some of the observers feeling dissatisfied with their experience.
Flexible Paper Sculptures by Li Hongbo
Names In Chinese Culture
In Chinese culture, a person’s name is written the opposite of American culture. Here, a person might be David Brown, but in China he would be Brown David. In China a person’s surname comes first and it is followed by their given name.
That is the reason that I refer to Li Hongbo in this article as Mr. Li. Mr. Li is his surname or last name and it is considered rude even in writing to leave off his title, because I am not well acquainted with him. If I were, he might give me permission to call him by his given name.
Here in the U.S. we tend to be very informal, often calling people by their first names even when we barely know them. In China it is unacceptable to call anyone by their given name without their specific permission to do so.
In China women always retain their maiden names even after marriage. When a person is not familiar with someone, it is always correct to address them including their title -- Mr., Mrs., Miss., Doctor, Mayor, etc. At this time the title women here in the states (including this writer) often choose for themselves (Ms.) is not used.
Experiencing Li Hongbo’s Sculptures
As one gallery visitor explained, “When you can open it, there is movement, there is mobility. It becomes a dynamic thing versus a very static thing. As an observer, I can only enjoy that momentum or that movement of the object if someone opens it for me. The sculptures are funny, because they are very enticing. I want to play with them, but I am not allowed."
Mr. Li is aware of the frustration some gallery observers feel, and at a show in Sydney (Australia) he provided small models for the audience to play with.
Though Mr. Li refuses to disclose prices, a recent bust of David reportedly sold for $32,000. Several of his other pieces in the 'Tools of Study' exhibit at the Klein Sun gallery in New York where his work was on display from January until March of this year reportedly sold for $10,000 to $48,000, (Wall Street Journal). With a growing demand for his works the cost of providing gallery visitors with smaller sculptors that they can manipulate themselves could end up stretching the wallets of those observers who choose a hands-on experience.
Be sure to watch the provided videos to see Li Hongbo’s works in motion.
More Sculptors by Li Homgbo
For a Quick Look at Li Hongbo's Sulptures in Motion
See Li Hongbo's Flexible Sculptures in Motion and How He Creates Them
The Free Dictionary
Wall Street Journal
© 2014 C E Clark