Kishio Suga

Touko Museum of Contemporary Art

Kishio Suga’s work is concerned with the limits of space and the ambiguities of the liminal. The most striking of these new works is Shui-Naishigaikan (Gathered/Surrounded: Branches Inside, Trunks Outside, 1990). Four large glass boxes arranged in a stepped formation were pierced in their centers by aluminum rods of differing diameters. While it might be seen as an embodiment of pure idea, this work also possessed a mystery comparable to that of the monolith at the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. One tries to line up the four rods, but their reflections extend beyond themselves, floating freely and establishing multiple visions and unsettling planes. The boxes define four related spaces, which together form a larger space that their transparency makes available.

Another large piece, Ikei (Surrounded view, 1990), consisted of long pieces of aluminum forming a low rectangular fence split into three sections. At one corner the fence is collapsed under the weight of a large rock. At two other points there are tall aluminum triangular doors penetrated at their centers by bronze rods. Standing vertically, they create blocked portals; one can walk around the occupied space but never enter it. More importantly, this abstract work seems a model of the cosmos, the sources of which lie in Suga’s reading of Indian Buddhist philosophy—in the idea of the interconnectedness of all things and the notion of the void at the center of it all.

Taishùbunkai (Circumferenced form: divided, open, 1990), consists of a large tree trunk split down its center, with a thin, open, aluminum box positioned about halfway down the fissure and extending a meter or so above the trunk. Here, via the contrast of materials, space is defined and contained, yet the work nevertheless seems to encompass and possess all space. This is also true of two other works, made of stepped stones with aluminum plates between them. The first—the work one initially sees when entering the museum—features a long gray aluminum wall between a rather formidable set of steps. The steps echo the floor’s tiles, while the wall, like a dull mirror, competes with the gallery wall. Once one walks around the work, however, and discovers that the aluminum wall is in fact a thin box, the viewer’s preconceptions dissolve. Dizzyingly, space is opened, and the work becomes purely linear with no volume.

As part of this exhibition Suga also gave a performance in which he laid down materials—a black strip of cloth, sheets of white paper, piles of stones, and strips of tin—assembled and dissembled them, and finally coiled a length of rope and laid a noose around his ankles. At the end it seemed a drawing—an abstract cosmic model—with no object touching another, but all connected somehow. As in all of his work, Suga respects his materials, also working on a human scale. He moves a stone only as far as his arm can reach; each move is dictated by the specific space of the performance, or in the exhibit, by the dimension and shapes of the museum and its rooms.

Arturo Silva