Jessica Hemmings

Textile Writer

Do-Ho Suh

Do-Ho Suh

BY JESSICA HEMMINGS

Do-Ho Suh
David Winton Bell Gallery
Brown University, Providence, USA

In 1957, the Bauhaus weaver Anni Albers penned The Pliable Plane: Textiles in Architecture in which she wrote, ‘From the fist shelter of hides to the latest tent for camping in peace as in war, the idea of a transportable, and therefore lightweight house has remained essentially the same. Wherever provisional quarters have to be built speedily and independent of local material, the textile house, the tent, is the answer because of the inherent characteristics of cloth that one might call its nomadic nature…’ Korean sculpture Do-Ho Suh’s 348 West 22nd St., Apt. A, New York, NY 10011 and 348 West 22nd St., Apt. A, New York, NY 10011 (corridor) exhibited at the David Winton Bell Gallery epitomise Albers’ reflections on the nomadic nature of the textile. Together, the works present a precise and highly transportable replica of the artist’s New York apartment and adjoining corridor, complete with details such as radiator knobs and fuse box lid rendered in nylon and thread.

Suh’s exhibition at the Bell Gallery represents a homecoming of sorts for the artist. A graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and Yale University, the Bell Gallery sits just a few blocks from RISD’s Sculpture Department where a fortuitous accident in scheduling led to Suh’s first sculpture class in the early 1990’s.

Homecoming is, of course, an ironic misnomer for an artist whose work explores themes of cultural displacement and personal identity through textile mappings of domestic spaces. Born and raised in Korea, the artist’s ease and unease with his life in New York appears in these painstaking and highly transportable maps of ‘home’. Suh’s lecture on opening night revealed with considerable humour both the cathartic and compulsive energies which drive his sculptural explorations. Pojagi, a wrapping cloth that is used to transport objects, store goods and cover surfaces represents yet another manifestation of the nomadic nature Albers notes as characteristic of cloth.

In addition to these works, the Bell Gallery presented Staircase III, a site specific piece which in many ways feels like the culminating gesture of Suh’s textile mappings. Filling the entire entrance hall from edge to edge, the crimson ceiling manages to make its suspension feel incidental. Staircase III makes no attempt to envelop the viewer. Nor does the crimson colour aspire to represent bodily skin as Anish Kapoor’s Marsyas (2002) recently exhibited in the Tate Modern. Instead, Staircase III is resolved through an active acceptance of gravity instead of an attempt to defy it and, as a result, feels like a resolution to both the dreams and realities of nomadic life.

Selvedge issue 00 may/June 2004: 93