There’s energy in Do Ho Suh’s rooms

Transparent and suspended. Do Ho Suh’s architecture of cloth almost seems to be on the point of vanishing. In his installations we find corridors, cupboards below staircases, doors, the residual spaces of life, of movement, translated into fabric and marked by unreal, dreamlike colours.

They hover like ghosts. They are the rooms of his memory, the studios he has worked in, the houses he has lived in, the entrances he passed through as a migrant. There’s his childhood home in Seoul, his house-studio as a young man in New York, and then the one on Rhode Island, the studios in Berlin and London. Each work of architecture is turned into a doppelgänger: a sentimental replica, abstract and at the same time highly detailed, on a scale of one to one, created by layering its signs in an exhausting process of recording. First the Korean artist lines the interiors with large sheets of drawing paper, sticking them onto the walls. The result is not so much wallpaper as a second skin that coats every surface. At this point he begins an extremely delicate work of frottage, a recording of the state of affairs, like a tracing. Do Ho Suh uses an ordinary pencil. With it he rubs, shades and retouches the white surface, capturing edges and minute details: a texture of marks that speaks of the place, its history and the passage of time. A handle, an old light switch, a crack, a part of a door appears. This architecture also leaves an impression on paper. It’s his way of saying goodbye to a place. Perhaps, or of keeping it with him forever. At this point, the artist translates the coating of paper into iridescent fabric, as if it were a paper pattern. The result an installation that can be explored, on the inside and outside.

Do Ho Suh, Wieland Strasse, 18, 12159 Berlin, Germany–3 corridors, 2011, Collection of the artist. Installation view: Perfect Home, 21st Century Museum, Kanazawa, Japan, November 23, 2012–March 17, 2013 © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. (Photo Taegsu Jeon)

“An architecture of the soul, a place of memory,” as Do Ho Suh puts it, who was born in Seoul in 1962, finished his studies in the US and represented his country at the Venice Biennale in 2011. “I’m interested in turning space that has accumulated my presence and my energy into something that has physical and metaphorical form.” From 13 March to 5 August the Smithsonian American Art Museum will stage an exhibition entitled Almost Home. In addition to Hub, a large immersive and dreamlike installation, it also includes a group of semi-transparent replicas of household objects entitled Specimen.

Do Ho Suh, 348 West 22nd Street, Apartment A, Unit–2, 2011–2015.
Collection of Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Anonymous Gift. Installation view: in between, Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art, Japan, August 4– October 21, 2011 © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York and Hong Kong. (Photo Taegsu Jeon)

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