THE EXTERIOR SPECTACLE HELPS INTIMATE GRANDEUR UNFOLD.
- GASTON BACHELARD
Suh Do Ho's complex relationship with his native South Korea has long formed one of the central tenets of his art, and his unique conceptual approach to his themes and inventive use of materials and scale have made him one of the most inspiring and inventive artists in contemporary art.
Throughout his career, Suh's imagery has balanced precariously between the deeply personal and universal. He delves repeatedly into themes and imagery surrounding home, history and identity. But even as he executes such elaborate projects as recreating his entire previous New York apartment in soft sculpture form, the result is not exactly about any simple nostalgia. This is the case with his monumental soft sculpture Gate-Small (Lot 108) from 2003. Although the form is composed of the traditional Korean architectural elements, it is also has a very personal meaning for Suh as a reproduction of the gate of his childhood home. Constructed out of a translucent, lightly toned silk and simple embroidery articulating the details of each brick, tile, and carved ornamentation, the form is hung as if weightless from the ceiling, its bottom-most bricks hovers just above the ground. Suh's inquiry into identity then is not necessarily one that is burdened with history or overdetermined by fate. Rather, it is a sincere curiosity over the haptic, ephemeral, taken-for-granted experience of our material surroundings, the mysterious forms our conscious and unconscious selves take as a result.
Gate-Small is majestic and insubstantial, hovering over the viewer like a dream. It conjures notions of rites of passage and transformation, but either direction might suggest a return home or a journey out into the world. Suh passed through this gate every day of his childhood, and invites us to try that experience on for ourselves as well, reminding us of how essential the dialectic of exploration and of returning home is to us as we carry ourselves forth in the world.