DO HO SUHBridging Home-2, 2012, pencil, colored pencil and photograph on paper, 109 × 174.7 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York/Hong Kong.


Do Ho Suh

Lehmann Maupin
USA Korea, South

Celebrated for his sculptures and installations dealing with identity and displacement, 52-year-old Korean artist Do Ho Suh has been making drawings for his highly poetic projects since the mid-1980s. Key to his engaging practice, Suh’s works on paper were initially a testing ground for philosophical ideas about home as a place that continually travels with you, as well as for concepts of karma related to personal and collective memories. Over the years, however, Suh’s drawings—made from colored threads embedded in handmade paper and painstaking rubbings of architectural sites—have come into their own as distinctive works of art that add a new perspective to the age-old medium.

Encompassing both of Lehmann Maupin’s New York gallery spaces, “Drawings” presents a succinct selection of Suh’s works on paper from 2012 to 2014, along with two major installations that were commissioned by the 2012 Gwangju Biennale. Bridging Home-2 (2012), the only collage in the show, offers sequential, schematic views of the Liverpool skyline in England, with a traditional Korean house (based on Suh’s parents’ home) parachuting into a tight spot between two larger buildings. The final sequence of the collage consists of a panoramic photograph showing the fabricated house oddly wedged into an alien environment. Given that Suh recently moved from New York to London, and that the 2012 Liverpool Biennial commissioned the project, the idea that his family home would fall out of the sky and end up where it landed makes perfect sense.

Suh’s Rubbing/Loving Project: Apartment A, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA (2014), comprising full-scale rubbings on paper that the artist took of his old apartment, corridor and studio located at the address in the work’s title, dominates Lehmann Maupin’s Chelsea gallery. Made over a three-month period when the apartment was between occupants, the blue-pencil-on-vellum rubbings capture the bathroom, kitchen, entrance, floor and front windows of the artist’s former dwelling—as well as various fixtures like the bathroom sink, toilet and tub—in ghostly detail. In creating the work, Suh and his assistants carefully covered each space with paper and captured its memory by rubbing the surface with colored pencils. The various sheets of paper were then cut apart and later reassembled for the “Drawings” exhibition—an amazing task!

Installation view of DO HO SUH’s Rubbing/Loving Project: Apartment A, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USAat Lehmann Maupin, New York. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York/Hong Kong.

DO HO SUHBlueprint, 2014, thread, cotton, methylcellulose, 101.6 × 152.4 cm. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York/Hong Kong.

Equally compelling are the two Gwangju Biennale commissions that are on view at the gallery’s Lower East Side space. Rubbing/Loving Project: Company Housing of Gwangju Theater commemorates the 1980 Gwangju uprising for democratization, a seminal moment in modern Korean history. It recreates housing spaces of the general public during the time of the protests, which Suh and his crew rubbed with chunks of black graphite while blindfolded, in reference to the government censorship of the 1980s. Meanwhile, Rubbing/Loving Project: Dormitory Room at Gwangju Catholic Lifelong Institute was rubbed with cyan, magenta, yellow and black pencils, based on the CMYK model used in four-color printing, a medium for conveying photographic images that was suppressed during the protests.

Other standout works in the show include a series of thread-on-paper-pulp pieces, such as Blueprint (2014), which depicts the façade of 348 West 22nd Street with a lone figure behind it; Facing Myself (2014), a circular rendering of male and female figures melding into one; Myselves (2013), showing a series of heads floating out of one body; and My Homes (2014), which portrays three walking figures carrying what appears to be a small house—one holds it externally, another internally in his body and the last “carries” it in his mind. These sketches have been realized as a series of self-portraits (2014)—an unusual work for the artist—in color pencil on paper, which are also included in the Lehmann Maupin exhibition.

Accompanied by a new, eponymous monograph, this show presents a side of Do Ho Suh that has rarely been seen before, while delighting the mind and eye in a way that his compelling projects have done since the artist first started exhibiting his work.

Drawings is on view at Lehmann Maupin gallery, New York, until October 25, 2014.