First published on 9 April 2018
How This Globetrotting Artist Redefines Home and Hearth
You are invited into Do Ho Suh's apartment. You put down your bag, remove your coat and step inside. The hallway changes color as you proceed, first pink, then green and then blue. It's narrow, but it feels spacious. There is a red staircase outside, and beyond it people are moving around. You can see them, right through the walls. Cabinet handles appear rigid, but the doors they sag slightly. A doorknob pulses almost imperceptibly in the breeze. Back at your house, the only things that behave this way are cobwebs, but here, everything—door panels, chain locks, light switches, sprinkler system—dissolves delightfully into colored light.
Almost Home, Suh's solo exhibition on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is filled with fabric sculptures big and small, all of them monochromatic actual-size 3D recreations of the walls and moldings and fixtures of rooms where he has lived in New York, Berlin and Seoul. The gallery space is lined with vitrines that hold everything from an old-fashioned radiator, pink and prim, its floral decoration picked out in subtle embroidery, to neatly rendered electrical outlets and circuit breakers in red and blue, to a microwave oven, a radiant block of yellow. Down the center of the gallery runs the procession of hallways, ethereal representations of those where Suh has walked.