artist / participant
The David Winton Bell Gallery will present works by contemporary Korean artist Do-Ho Suh. An opening reception with lecture by the artist will be held on Friday, November 7, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the List Art Center Auditorium. The lecture is co-sponsored by the Rhode Island School of Design Sculpture Department. Do-Ho Suh is presented in conjunction with Brown University's Korean Centennial Celebration.
Do-Ho Suh was born in Seoul in 1962. After earning his BFA and MFA in Oriental Painting from Seoul National University, and fulfilling his term of mandatory service in the South Korean military, Suh relocated to the United States to continue his studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University. Today he divides his time between New York, which he tentatively calls "home," and Seoul, where he visits family and fabricates works.
His immigration to the U.S. produced a disorientation that the artist describes as "transcultural displacement," a feeling of being neither here nor there. "I don't really get homesick, but I've noticed that I have a longing for this particular space and I want to recreate that space or bring that space wherever I go."
Since 1999, Suh has made replicas of his living spaces—his childhood home in Seoul and his apartment in New York—in semi-transparent fabrics that he can literally pack in a suitcase and carry with him. 348 West 22nd St., Apt A, New York, NY 10011 is a full-scale reproduction of Suh's Chelsea apartment, constructed—or more precisely, sewn—with remarkable specificity. Suh begins his architectural pieces by taking precise measurements of the space, which he then translates into patterns and fabricates in Korea with the help of master seamstresses. Viewers can enter and walk through the apartment, observing the fireplace and bookshelves, the stove, refrigerator, and sink, and the light switches, sockets, doorknobs, and locks. The effect is uncanny for viewers, and even more so for the artist. Fabricated in grey nylon, West 22nd St. is playful and amusing, like an Oldenburg soft-sculpture, but also somewhat sterile and sad. This is in contrast to Suh's re-creation of his familial residence, Seoul Home, which is sewn in diaphanous, celedon-green silk organza that drapes in puddles on the floor in one installation and floats like a ghost in the air in another.
The Bell Gallery exhibition features three of Suh's architectural installations, all relating to his New York apartment: the cumbersomely titled 348 West 22nd St., Apt A, New York, NY 10011 and 348 West 22nd St., Apt A, New York, NY 10011 (corridor), from 2000 and 2001, respectively, and Staircase, 2003. Staircase was created for the List Art Center Lobby and conforms to the specific dimensions of that space; other versions of the piece were created for the Istanbul Biennale and a group exhibition at the Artsonje Center, Seoul.
Staircase is based on a staircase and floor in Suh's landlord's apartment. Only after six years of living together—after learning of his landlord's interest in art and making his landlord aware of his interests—was Suh comfortable in asking permission to measure the space. Extending his process into another person's living area was a new experience for Suh, who refers to the work as "a spacial manifestation of the human relationship and of the ambiguous boundaries between personal and public space."
Fabricated in vibrant red nylon, Staircase is visually striking. Not quite touching the floor, the staircase extends down from a blanket of red that Suh associates with the floor of the space above. The work shadows the viewer. Here Staircase exists as an isolated architectural element, separated from Suh's apartment. This simple formal move has significant effects. Most notable is the loss of specificity. After all, differing in width or length only, one staircase looks pretty much like another when isolated from its surroundings. Discussing Staircase, Suh stresses it verticality, and a pop culture reference immediately comes to mind: that of Led Zeppelin's song Stairway to Heaven. Asked about the reference, Do-Ho Suh thinks a bit and replies "I wouldn't deny it. I wouldn't deny it, totally."
Do-Ho Suh's artwork has received widespread critical acclaim. It was included in Plateau of Humankind and in the Korean Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale; in Greater New York at PS1 Contemporary Art Center, NY; and in exhibitions at MoMA, NY; the Houston Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; and the Biennale of Sydney, among other institutions. He has had solo exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery, London; the Seattle Art Museum; the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; and the Whitney Museum of American Art at Philip Morris. His first one-person exhibition in Korea was held at the Artsonje Center, Seoul, during the summer of 2003, and his work is included in the 2003 Istanbul Biennale.
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