Do Ho Suh

Do Ho Suh | Lehmann Maupin Gallery

by Liz on October 30, 2011

in Art & Design

Many Americans think of Koreans in the United States as diligent and capable newcomers who adjust quickly to their host country. Different, yes, but in a nation of differences and diversity, Koreans are just another stripe of color in an ever trendy mosaic. Do they have reservations about the new culture they must adapt to? Are they experiencing difficulties? No one knows, because no one ever bothers to ask them. No one, except for perhaps Korean artist Do Ho Suh, who resurfaced to transform elements of the autobiographical into both the artistic and the architectural at Lehmann Maupin Gallery.

As you can see from the photograph above, Suh created replicas of two buildings that have become fused thanks to a collison of two worlds, which took place when the artist first arrived in the United States in 1991 to attend the Rhode Island School of Design. The prewar brownstone replica represents the home he adopted in Providence, Rhode Island, and the hanok on the right depicts his childhood home in Korea with painstaking accuracy. According to the art narrative, his Korean home was lifted up by a tornado, transporting Suh to a strange but soon-to-be-familiar place called America. And the results are a vision to behold.

Details of hanok in Fallen Star 1/5, 2008-2011

Floor by floor of Fallen Star 1/5, 2008-2011

The tornado-driven crash landing has devastated the interior of the brownstone across all immediately adjacent floors. The damage is severe, even irreparable, but also void of catastrophic emotion. The rooms appear to be inhabited, and yet there are no people. All we have is silence, but a silence so indifferent it’s practically an ode to the ones who know that when a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, it really does not make a sound.

Suh is a remarkable artist whose intimate knowledge of cultural displacement has in many ways inspired my desire to become a better interpreter of transnational Asian culture and experience. Suh’s collision is a serious crisis, but I know all too well the greater crisis is our defiant disregard for our feelings of discontinuity and change. It’s a story that’s defined entire swathes of people but remain suppressed and unverbalized, until someone like Suh takes a stand and says, “You. This is you.” The fact that Suh is Korean and has intimate knowledge of Korean architecture made this exhibit feel all the more personal.

As for his art, I’ll let the visual outcome speak for itself.

Details of a kitchen

The attention to detail, such as in this bedroom, was simply mind-boggling.

Rear window

Visitors standing by Fallen Star 1/5, 2008-2011. Certainly gives you a sense of scale!

The parachute attached to Suh's childhood home. Definitely has echoes of his previous works.


When I first started this blog, I must have been tremendously naive, or at least under the impression that Asian-y events in New York were manageable, at least from a writer’s perspective. Of course, now I know better.

New York is positively Asiafied. It’s actually a challenge to curate great places and people, and reduce a month’s worth of events to one page. It’s also bewildering that some really terrific stuff gets totally ignored by mainstream media outlets! As usual, I’ve taken an avalanche of information for October and reduced it to reasonable a number, all in the vague hope it’s of some service to my readers.


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You may have noticed that I’ve been on an art run lately — blogging about Asian contemporary artists whose presence in New York is remarkably ubiquitous. It’s also gallery season in the city, something I discovered here, which means an outpouring of talent in every gallery in Chelsea (come for the art! stay for the champagne!). What’s not to indulge?

Do Ho Suh has become something of a household name in international art circuits. In the past, he’s used a variety of media, including military dog tags and nylon mesh, to evoke the biographical while creating some of the most unforgettable art created in the last 15 years. So imagine my surprise, and slight disappointment, to discover Suh’s new project at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, a sliver of space in Soho. No dramatic installations, no diminutive rubber people holding up heavy plates of glass. Was Suh’s fun days coming to an end?

Suh, it turns out, is a little homesick. Well, maybe not homesick, but trying to reconcile the dichotomy of his life. Suh was born in Korea and studied art in both Korea and the United States. He has studios in New York and Seoul. He probably speaks both Korean and English. I could go on, but the moral of the story is, he’s walking a tight rope between cultures, and dare I say, universes.

Which is why it’s only logical his perfect home would be situated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a solitary outpost smack dab at the center of his imagination. For two years, his imagination has led him and a team of researchers, architects, and designers to create four bridges to connect Seoul and New York. The video shows how the bridges would criss-cross between the two cities:

3D rendition of the undulating bridge support:

Each design factors in specific environmental and oceanographic conditions: ocean current, tide, wind, and temperature, as well as political conditions on the Korean peninsula. That basically means staying away from zones of missile testing.

Rough sketches of Suh’s proposed bridge support. Suh’s notes roughly translate to
How will the bridge stay in place?
Method 1. Completely affix the bridge to the bottom of the ocean bed. A bridge strong enough to withstand hurricanes, tide, wind, and rain.
Method 2. A bridge that floats on the ocean. Will need capacity to always stay on the surface of the water.

My favorites were these sketches of the bridge’s propulsion system, reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings of once inconceivable inventions. I like to think Suh was inspired by the humble jellyfish in the design of the propulsion system.

A Perfect Home: The Bridge Project is on view at the Storefront for Art and Architecture from September 15 to December 7.