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Do Ho Suh's Almost Home: In Eternal Pursuit of Capturing Transience

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Do Ho Suh's Almost Home: In Eternal Pursuit of Capturing Transience
Do Ho Suh, Doorknob, Wieland Strasse, 18, 12159 Berlin, Germany, 2016, polyester fabric, stainless steel armature, and display case with LED lighting, Private collection. © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Taegsu Jeon

Installation shot of Do Ho Suh: Almost Home, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler

Ethereal, translucent models of residential corridors and hallways hang suspended in the ground floor special exhibitions hall of the Smithsonian American Art Museum constituting acclaimed artist Do Ho Suh’s Almost Home exhibition, organized by curator Sarah Newman.  Captivating, moving, and highly relevant, this show encapsulates Suh’s artistic brilliance and provides a significant point of reflection not only upon the social and political climate of a nation in it’s capital, but to the world at large.  The curiosity and wonder that the innovative aesthetic of his work evokes transforms into nostalgia, eliciting an impactful emotional response from audiences, and herein lies his specialty. Revealing his creative process, works on view are intricately stitched colorful “sketches” that serve as the initial drafts of his life size sculptures. Upon entering, viewers are immediately greeted with one of his iconic renderings of domestic spaces, entitled The Hub.

Installation shot of Do Ho Suh: Almost Home, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler

Installation shot of Do Ho Suh: Almost Home, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler

Hallways seamlessly dissolve into one another, from pink to green to blue, the colors symbolic of different residences in different cities the artist has resided in. The Hub begins with a hanging red staircase which leads to a pink hallway, modelled after his apartment in New York where he lived from 1997 - 2016, which transitions into green, the corridor from his house in Berlin. This leads into blue, representing his childhood home in Korea, marking its exhibition debut. Visitors are encouraged to explore the space, by walking inside and along these hallways as he once did, experiencing his memories of home and connecting them with theirs. Serving as a metaphor for his geographical and personal journey, his work is inherently self-reflective and compels viewers to do the same. Particularly in this contemporary age where travel, relocation, and mass migration (be it forced or voluntary) affect the lives of countless people, and the concept of home and identity are always in flux. In exploring a notion as intimate and personal as that of ‘home’, his work hits on the emotional attachments we have to places that recall the memories and experiences that affect and shape our identity.   

Installation shot of Do Ho Suh: Almost Home, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler

Do Ho Suh, Corridor 10, Wieland Strasse, 18, 12159 Berlin, Germany, 2013, polyester fabric and stainless armature, Collection of Matthew and Wendy Cherwin © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Taegsu Jeon

This sentiment is heightened through the astounding details present within Suh’s fabric sculptures, as their details stimulate memory. Door knobs, locks, cabinets and vents are all intricate components of his installations, the inclusion of which reflects painstaking efforts taken to recreate what once was. These infinite details are also found in constructed replicas of domestic appliances and other features, deemed ‘specimens’ by Suh. A red fire extinguisher hangs in the corner, a closer glance reveals usage instructions stitched minutely into the fabric. Similarly a model of a circuit breaker displays dials, information and operative instructions. Elsewhere, a yellow microwave hangs suspended in a glass box with buttons and dials impeccably replicated. Clusters of blue light switches, outlets, bathroom facilities, and kitchen amenities are precisely reproduced. Perhaps the most striking replicas are the frames containing intricate renderings of door knobs, each with luminous carvings poetically inscribed in green string.

Installation shot of Do Ho Suh: Almost Home, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler

Do Ho Suh, Radiator, Corridor/Ground Floor, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2013, polyester fabric, stainless steel armature, and display case with LED lighting, Collection of the artist © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong.Photo: Taegsu Jeon

Do Ho Suh, Microwave Oven, Unit2, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2015, polyester fabric, stainless steel armature, and display case with LED lighting, Collection of Trey and Jenny Laird © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Taegsu Jeon

The material and construction behind these is critical to understanding Suh’s process and how one experiences his work. The aforementioned drafts that he builds from are essentially drawings with thread embedded in paper, the origin of his trademark details. The use of thread and employment of stitching as a technique signifies the act of forming and maintaining connections through binding two disjointed elements together to forge solid, tangible, yet translucent and delicate entities. The appearance of fragility yields a mystical, wispy quality, producing a dream-like state that defines viewer’s experience. The works are collapsable and can be packed up, transported, and set up somewhere else, much like memories and home themselves.

Installation shot of Do Ho Suh: Almost Home, Smithsonian American Art Museum, 2018, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, photo by Libby Weiler

Do Ho Suh, Apartment A, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2011, polyester fabric and stainless steel armature, Collection of Ronald and Valery Harrar © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Taegsu Jeon

 

The sculptures are composed of inexpensive and common polyester blend material typically used in Korea. Though negligible in monetary value, the skill required to stitch and construct the objects is immense, with each piece handmade and hand-stitched. A laborious task, the resulting craftsmanship is due to years of training with Korean artisans, many of whom have taught traditional sewing techniques to him, and he has in turn taught to his team. Cut from Korean cloth and formed by Korean techniques, Suh’s art, identity, and journey will always be rooted in and informed by Korean culture, as exemplified in his New York and Berlin sectors of The Hub. His method is a way of reliving memories, documenting his path and making sense of his identity in a global context - a testament to his life.

Do Ho Suh, Corridor, Wieland Strasse, 18, 12159 Berlin, Germany, 2013, polyester fabric and stainless steel armature, Collection of Nikolaus Hensel © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Taegsu Jeon

The title itself alludes to a journey where the destination of which is undoubtedly Home. This exhibition is one of many that embodies segments of the artist’s passage. After Seoul, Berlin, and New York, he now finds himself in London, constantly traveling to Korea and New York. He lives a nomadic lifestyle that is relatable to many. The population of D.C itself is transient in nature, with people from across the US and world living there. Situating this show particularly in the Smithsonian American Museum of Art highlights the pertinent issue of what firstly constitutes one’s personal, and secondly American identity - a notion which is being branded and called into question both politically and socially. In this regard, through creating relevant, thought-provoking, touching and visually mesmerizing works, Suh fulfils art’s ultimate function in its most humble and elegant manner.

Do Ho Suh, Corridor 10, Wieland Strasse, 18, 12159 Berlin, Germany, 2013, polyester fabric and stainless armature, Collection of Matthew and Wendy Cherwin © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. Photo: Taegsu Jeon

 

For more information on Almost Home, click here.


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.



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