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An interview with Sui Jianguo
Still from the Smart Museum's interview with Sui Jianguo.

Sui Jianguo 随建国

Chinese, born 1956

Artist Profile

One of the most established sculptors working in China today, Sui Jianguo was instrumental in expanding traditional practices of sculpture by embracing new methods and materials, as first seen in his practice during the late 1980s.

Sui’s sculptural experiments focused on the tension between inner and outer structure as well as on the juxtapositions between different types of materials such as stone and metal. Seemingly abstract and non-representational, these sculptures—the result of intense, time-consuming labor—are in fact deeply related to the artist’s personal reflections and experience of historical events in China that took place during the late twentieth century.

The sculpture Kill is comprised of a single sheet of rubber with 300,000 nails driven through it. The artwork both exposes the incredible resilience of rubber as a material and demonstrates how abstracted forms can manifest broader political significance. Sui himself described it this way:

It surprised me that even a small piece of rubber can bear a great many nails without altering its shape and qualities. What is more, by incorporating so many nails into its own body the rubber sheet has changed from a passive and receptive object to an active and aggressive one. This makes me think about our nation and myself. All throughout this century—since the establishment of the PRC, the opening up after the Cultural Revolution, and the June Fourth Movement—the Chinese people have shown great strength of endurance. But pliability also means alienation; we all have this ability to survive.1

Sui Jianguo. Photo courtesy of the artist.
“Even a small piece of rubber can bear a great many nails without altering its shape and qualities.”
—Sui Jianguo 2

Footnotes

  • 1

    Sui Jianguo, “Interview with Sui Jianguo, Beijing, November 10, 1996,” by Lui Xiaochun, in Meisu wenxian (Art literature), no. 8 (1997): 4, 8.

  • 2

    Ibid.

Works on View

Wrightwood 659

Kill, 1996

Rubber and iron nails
Dimensions variable; unrolled: 354 3/8 x 24 3/8 in. (900.1 x 61.9 cm)

Collection of the artist, courtesy of Pace Gallery

Sui Jianguo, Kill, 1996. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–2020. Photo courtesy of © Museum Associates/LACMA.
Sui Jianguo, Kill, 1996. Installation view, The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 2019–20. Photo © Museum Associates/LACMA.
Sui Jianguo, Kill, 1996. Detail. Photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Gallery.

Working Process

Sui Jianguo and a studio assistant working on Kill, 1996. Photo courtesy of the artist.
Sui Jianguo hammering nails into a long strip of rubber for the work Kill, 1996. Still from Creative Process Documentation for "Kill," 1996–2003, produced by Sui Jianguo Studio, © Sui Jianguo Foundation. Courtesy of the artist.