Agus Suwage (b. 1959, Purworejo, Central Java, Indonesia) lives and works in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. He received his M.F.A. in Graphic Design at Bandung Institute of Technology in 1986 and his currently on the Faculty of Fine Art and Design, Bandung, Indonesia. He has exhibited in a number of international biennials, such as the Asia Pacific Triennial in Brisbane, Australia (1996), the Gwangju Biennial (2000), and the Singapore Biennial (2006). In 2009, a major retrospective of his work from the past 25 years was presented at the Jogja National Museum in Indonesia. A monograph of his work, Still Crazy After All These Years, was published in conjunction with the exhibition. In 2013, Tyler Rollins Fine Art presented Suwage’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. Recently, Suwage participated in numerous group exhibitions in Asia and Europe including at the Singapore Art Museum, the Macro Museum in Rome, the National Portrait Gallery in Canberra, the National Gallery in Jakarta. He is a recipient of the Phillip Morris Indonesian Art Award and his work is included in the public collections of the Singapore Art Museum; Fukuoka Art Museum, Japan; Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Japan; and The Museum of Modern Art, Saitama, Japan. Agus Suwage is represented by Tyler Rollins Fine Art, New York.
The Indonesian artist Agus Suwage employs symbols to convey his experience of the world around him and as a form of social critique. Born in 1959 in Central Java, he studied graphic design at the Institut Teknologi Bandung (Bandung Institute of Technology) in West Java before settling in Yogyakarta, a major center for contemporary art on the island. His work is heavily informed by his mixed Javanese and Chinese heritage. In the series on view at Prospect.3, the word “tolerance” (toleransi) has a dual meaning. On the one hand, it refers ironically to the increasingly intolerant social climate in Indonesia, particularly with regard to religion. On the other hand, it alludes to Suwage’s desire to find a solution that makes life more tolerable within that atmosphere.
Tolerance Wall #2 (Tembak Toleransi #2), a self-portrait created from recycled tin cans and parts of car audio systems, represents a buffer between Suwage’s Yogyakarta studio and the blaring noise of loudspeakers from nearby mosques, which magnify the Muslim call to prayer. The loudspeaker signifies the mouthpiece of the religious majority—Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world— which has often been at odds with the minority population of Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists. Suwage himself was Christian before converting to Islam for marriage. A row of small speakers pierces through the artist’s ears, nose, and eyes, suggesting an overbearing assault on the senses. The mosaic grid of tin cans in Tolerance Wall is replicated in two paintings on canvas from the same series; multicolored circles, seemingly units of sound, issue, in one case, from a loudspeaker and, in the other, into an ear, both superimposed over the artist’s silhouette.