LI HONGBO’S IRON FOR THE AGES
By Elizabeth Patterson
Gun violence has never been a hotter topic than it is right now. With the upcoming presidential elections and constant news stream of gun-related fatalities, the subject has been all over the media. Artist Li Hongbo is introducing a new perspective on gun violence with his installation Irons for the Ages, Flowers for the Day.
Chinese artist Hongbo has gained renown for his structures made entirely out of paper and glue. His initial fascination came from his own culture’s traditional paper gourds. Hongbo decided to expand on this small-scale art form and transfer the idea into other things. His favored type of paper, honeycomb is featured heavily in his work. A meticulous sanding and gluing process results in sculpture-like artwork. The pull-apart, almost sponge-y paper has an expansive quality that gives his work a sense of infiniteness and dimensionality that other artists lack. Additionally, when pulled apart, his sometime serene pieces morph into something much more sinister. A white, grinning skull becomes the stuff of nightmares as it’s stretched out, and a woman sitting on a couch looks as though she’s melted, with her head lying next to her lap and her legs snaked around on the floor. Rather than inspire fear, Hongbo’s artworks aspire to make the viewer think.
Irons for the Ages, Flowers for the Day is a perfect example of Hongbo’s desire to challenge perceptions. The massive installation of brightly colored honeycomb paper takes over its space. Different types of expansions take the shapes of half-circles and tiny, pyramid-like structures. The scene is really a sight to behold, and one would almost never believe that the creations are entirely made out of gun-shaped paper. The work isn’t meant to glorify, but rather memorialize all those across the globe who have been victims of gun violence.
Hongbo’s artwork calls for reflection and also action. The tiny gun pads and their ability to expand easily represent the ripple effect gun violence has not just on its direct victims, but their families, friends, and culture as well. Irons for the Ages, Flowers for the Day is on view at the SCAD Museum of Art until January 24, 2016.