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Now that’s a stretch of the imagination! The captivating Greco-Roman-style sculptures that are actually made from layers of PAPER

At first glance, the sculptures sitting in New York’s Klein Sun Gallery appear to be impeccable recreations of Greco-Roman porcelain masterpieces.



Seconds later, the gallery’s Assistant Director, Amy Purssey, is stretching and twisting what looks like the solid, chiseled cheekbones of Michelangelo’s David into a giant slinky.


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Using this paper gourd technique, the 38-year-old artist starts out with a block structure formed by pasting glue across approximately 5,000 pieces of paper in narrow strips, which he then stacks to a desired height.

He then cuts, chisels and sands each block to form a remarkable stone-like sculpture that expands with a weightless, honeycomb-like effect.

‘At the beginning, I discovered the flexible nature of paper through Chinese paper toys and paper lanterns,’ Mr Hongbo, who earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Jilin Normal University in 1996, explained.

  ‘Later, I used this principle to make a gun,’ he said, referring to a paper pistol that can be transformed into an elegant fan. ‘A gun is solid, used for killing, but I turned it into a tool for play or decoration. In this way, it lost both the form of a gun and the culture inherent to a gun. It became a game.’

His latest exhibition, Tools of Study, a name inspired from when he was a child first learning how to sketch, took two years to complete.

‘Instead of forcing a living, breathing human to pose for hours on end he was instructed by his professors to draw these world-renowned busts, such as Michelangelo’s David and Michelangelo himself,’ explained Ms Purssey.

‘In recreating these classical masterpieces through one of the oldest mediums in history, Li Hongbo invites us to experience paper and sculpture in a radical and insightful way. It’s almost as if he’s invented a new color!’

 Mr Hongbo’s replicas of Russian writer Maxim Gorky, the Greek goddess Athena and Michelangelo’s David are just some of the iconic Greco-Roman statues that sit stone-faced around the gallery.

But as white-gloved staff twist and pull the sculptures out of human form, passersby gape in awe.

‘Strange and unsettling are just adjectives used by some individuals,’ said Mr Hongbo. ‘People have a fixed understanding of what a human is … So when you transform a person, people will reconsider the nature of objects and the motivation behind the creation. This is what I care about.’

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