A chartreuse simulacrum of a bathroom. And a bedroom and a staircase. For years, Korean artist Do Ho Suh has been sculpting every aspect of his NYC apartment and studio (a former sailors’ dorm in Chelsea) – down to the electrical sockets – exhibiting the rooms in galleries around the world. For the first time ever, his home in toto is on exhibit at the Contemporary Austin in Texas, through January 11.
Suh achieves his diaphanous interiors by building each fixture with stainless steel tubes, then sheathing the skeletons in bright polyester fabric. His spaces oscillate between opacity and visibility, making transparency a lens through which visitors explore ideas of public and private spaces and selves.
“Absent didactic narrative but ripe with evocative content, Suh’s poetic works ask viewers to consider the definition of home:” writes Heather Pesanti, senior curator of the Austin show. “What it means, how it feels to have a home or be without, and the way in which we carry our past, present, and future dwellings around with us for the entirety of our lives.”
Or, as Wall Street Journal reporter Julie L. Belcove succinctly said a year ago, “In an age of exponentially increasing globalization, Suh’s consideration of what it means to belong strikes a nerve.”
Preoccupied with my own shape-shifting notion of home, I imagine wandering through this ghostly world wearing this splashy sweatshirt, in deference to the domestic lifeblood – water – that will never run through it.
For Suh, what’s missing is as important as what’s present. “It’s an existential question of what we believe in this world — there are a lot of holes, but we try to believe it’s whole, the way a lot of people see the house [sculpture] as an exact replica. There’s a lot of rupture and gap. The role of the artist is to see those ruptures.”