In exquisitely made works, Do Ho Suh explores contemporary arrangements of space and the unstable boundaries of its categorisation along lines of individuality and collectivity, physicality and immateriality, mobility and fixity. Influenced by his peripatetic existence – leaving his native South Korea to study and live in the United States, he has more recently moved between New York, Seoul and London – an enduring theme of the artist's practice is the connection between the individual and the group across global cultures. The multiplicity of individuality is tested through meditative processes of repetition: whether interlinked along a lattice of fishing nets, amassed into monumental tornado-like forms, absent from ranks of empty uniforms, or present in every yearbook photo taken at the artist's high school over 60 years, the artist uses the reproduced human figure to explore sensitively, and with spectacular formal effect, the ways in which personal space inherently extends into the collective sphere.Read More
It is with the same elegant economy of conceptual means, focusing on simple yet transformative acts of repetition, that Suh treats the complex psychological and physical architectural structures of the concept of 'home'. In work for which he is widely known, the artist meticulously constructs proportionally exact replicas of dwelling places, architectural features, or household appliances – kitchen sinks, toilets and microwaves – from stitched planes of translucent, coloured polyester fabric. Often reflections of places the artist has inhabited, such as his childhood home or Western apartments, these delicately precise, weightless impressions seem to exist between imagination and reality. Suh has spoken of the distinctive openness to the environment of Korean homes; more than repositories of personal memory or nostalgic projections, his works respond to the indistinct boundaries between psychic interior and objective exterior, which make of home an ongoing lived function rather than a physical structure.
Constructed much like items of clothing, Suh's portable modules of space were designed to be packed in his suitcase as he travelled between continents, the artist's own personal peripatetic history bleeding into the universalised nomadism of a globalised world. Transitory, connecting spaces – corridors, staircases, bridges, gateways – feature often in the artist's drawings and sculptural installations: rather than borders, Suh is fascinated with the linking spaces through which the body travels between cultures. In this international era, the house is a protective mantle transformed by its arrivals in different contexts: in different works, homes from different stages of the artist's life nest one inside the other in differently coloured swathes of fabric, or come dramatically into collision in painstakingly constructed models.
This coexistence, which belies simplistic conceptions of cultural authenticity, is further investigated in Suh's large-scale public interventions in cities. With a mobile hotel, parked daily in the neglected gaps of urban fabric, and compact dwellings perched incongruously on existing tower blocks or sandwiched precariously between two neighbouring buildings as if having landed haphazardly after a long journey, the artist considers notions of organisation, proximity and belonging in a networked world.
Born in 1962 in South Korea, Do Ho Suh received a BFA in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and a MFA in sculpture from Yale University. He currently lives and works in London. Suh represented Korea at the 49th Venice Biennale in 2001, and has staged numerous recent international solo exhibitions and site-specific projects at institutional venues including Bildmuseet, Sweden, until 15 April 2018; Contemporary Arts Centre, Cincinnati, 2016; MOCA Cleveland, 2015–2016, travelling to MCA San Diego, 2016; The Contemporary Austin, Texas, 2014; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea, 2013; 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, 2012–2013 and 2005; Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Hiroshima, Japan, 2012; University of San Diego, California, 2012; Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul, Korea, 2012; Seattle Art Museum, Washington, 2011 and 2003, and Tate Modern, London, 2011. The artist has participated in the 8th Gwangju Biennale, 2012, 12th Venice Architecture Biennale, 2010, and 6th Liverpool Biennial, 2010. The first survey exhibition of Do Ho Suh's work in Europe was presented at the Serpentine Gallery, London in 2002.
Do Ho Suh: Almost Home will open at Smithsonian American Art Museum, 16 March–5 August 2018.
Suh's work is included in numerous museum collections worldwide including the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Tate, London; Leeum, Seoul; Artsonje Center, Seoul; National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Seoul; Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo; Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; and 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, among many others.
Text courtesy Victoria Miro.
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