While our London gallery is temporarily closed in accordance with UK national lockdown restrictions, we are pleased to bring you Do Ho Suh, a digital companion to our physical presentation at 1 Cromwell Place.
Offering an overview of the acclaimed Korean artist and featuring iconic works, this online experience seeks to showcase the range of Suh’s practice—from large and small-scale architectural fabric works, to thread drawings and watercolors, to bronze sculpture. Throughout his career, Suh has investigated the ways in which we occupy and inhabit both public and private space, drawing attention to questions of identity and the role of the individual in today’s increasingly global society.
Born in Seoul and now based in London, Suh is known for his multidisciplinary practice that confronts questions of home, memory, marginality, and the correlation between psychic and physical space. His autobiographical fabric sculptures recreate, to scale, spaces of his former residences and studios. Reflecting an itinerant life, these highly detailed portraits feature buildings, rooms, and domestic objects from past and present homes in Korea, Rhode Island, Berlin, London, and New York.
Anchoring this presentation is Hub-1, Entrance, 296-8, Sungbook-Dong, Sungboo-Ku, Seoul, Korea (2018), a one-to-one reproduction of a corridor from Suh’s childhood home in Seoul. The work, part of the artist’s renowned Hubs series, explores the in-between spaces one inhabits before entering rooms, where the relationship between exterior and interior, public and private, is blurred. Playing with notions of site-specificity, Suh has described the Hubs, which are easily transportable despite their scale, as “survival mechanisms” that allow him to carry ideas of home anywhere. Each Hub, with its translucence a nod to the malleability of memory, is activated when the viewer temporarily inhabits the work.
In his exquisite Specimen series, Suh replicates in fabric individual household elements such as light switches, door handles, electric panels, and appliances found in his previous homes, detaching them from the context of the overall space. Here we see Suh combining lighting fixtures from his New York studio and its adjacent corridors, as well as his former homes in Seoul, Berlin, and Providence, Rhode Island. By isolating these objects, Suh distills the feelings and memories of a place that reside in these quotidian forms; simulacra of the objects that silently punctuate the everyday. Each work in the Specimen series encourages viewers to focus on particular elements in greater detail and reflect on their own frequent and tactile relationship with these objects.
Notions of home and human connectivity are further explored in a series of recent mixed media and watercolor works on paper, Undressing (2019, 2020) and Dreaming Home (2019), which feature a solitary figure trailed by a billowing form—a visualization of the parts of our multi-layered selves and the memories of home we carry wherever we go. While these works focus on the individual looking inward, Family Cuddle (2020), depicting four intertwined figures representative of the artist’s family, reflects on connection with others as an important bond that links us to home.
Suh’s interest in how we construct and maintain our sense of self, as well as our sense of security, extends beyond placemaking. His Karma series explores the complex, interconnected nature of people and experiences that make up one’s life, relating this theme both to one’s personal journey and to the external forces that send us into new directions with different resulting outcomes. In his single-columned Karma (2015) and four-columned Karma (2015) sculptures, the artist focuses on human connectivity through a literal representation of the self in relation to others. Visualizing the complex interconnected web of relationships that make up one’s life by stacking uniform figures, one on top of another, Suh questions where the individual begins and ends. Present here and throughout much of Suh’s work is an exploration of the idea of human connectivity, applying both to existing relationships and to one’s relationship with past and future generations.
Notably, this presentation marks 20 years since Suh’s first exhibition with Lehmann Maupin and his first in the United States. The central work of the exhibition was Floor, a room-filling installation composed of 180,000 plastic figures supporting a glass surface on which visitors were able to walk. With Floor, Suh considered the concept of collective power and its relationship to individual and interpersonal identity.
Do Ho Suh (b. 1962, Seoul, Korea; lives and works in London) works across various media, creating drawings, film, and sculptural works that confront questions of home, physical space, displacement, memory, individuality, and collectivity. Suh is best known for his fabric sculptures that reconstruct to scale his former homes in Korea, Rhode Island, Berlin, London, and New York. Suh is interested in the malleability of space in both its physical and metaphorical forms, and examines how the body relates to, inhabits, and interacts with that space. He is particularly interested in domestic space and the way the concept of home can be articulated through architecture that has a specific location, form, and history. For Suh, the spaces we inhabit also contain psychological energy, and in his work he makes visible those markers of memories, personal experiences, and a sense of security, regardless of geographic location.
Click here to read Suh’s full biography.
Credits: All installation views of Lehmann Maupin London: Photos by Jack Hems; Video: “Do Ho Suh: ‘Rubbing / Loving’,” 2016. From Art21’s Extended Play series. Video courtesy Art21, art21.org, founded 1997; Photos of Karma (single column) by Elisabeth Bernstein; All artworks: © Do Ho Suh