Do Ho Suh opens exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

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Do Ho Suh opens exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Do Ho Suh, Passage/s, 2018, installation view, Towada Art Center, polyester fabric, stainless steel, image courtesy the artist, Lehmann Maupin Gallery, New York, Hong Kong, Seoul and London, and Victoria Miro, London and Venice, © the artist, photographer: Jeon Taeg Su.

SYDNEY.- A major new survey by internationally renowned artist Do Ho Suh, opened at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), as part of the 2022-2023 Sydney International Art Series. This is the first solo exhibition of the South Korean artist’s work in the Southern Hemisphere. Exclusive to Sydney, the extensive exhibition premieres the new installation, Rubbing/Loving Project: Seoul Home (2013–2022). 

Do Ho Suh (born 1962, Seoul) is known for his large-scale sculptural and installation works which address the often-complex relationships between the body, memory and space.  

This is the artist's first solo exhibition in Australia and represents one of his most comprehensive projects to date. It spans three decades, from the 1990s to the present, and encompasses key works across a wide range of media including sculptures, installations, drawings, printmaking, and video works.  

Diasporic experience and the space between different cultures and histories is a recurrent refrain within the works, which situate the home at the centre of our shared physical and psychological experience.  

Scale is central to Suh’s artworks, which vary from small, singular objects – door handles, plugs and switches, light bulbs – through to full scale replicas of the domestic spaces and studios he has inhabited over the course of his life. Realised in diverse materials, from steel military ‘dog tags’ to fabric to mulberry paper, these intimate and evocative artworks can be walked around, through and within. 

The MCA exhibition delves into Suh’s ongoing exploration of belonging, identity and home. Encompassing portraiture and architectural references, Suh’s works have a distinctive biographical dimension in their evocation of the artist’s childhood and schooling in South Korea, the family home in which he grew up, and his relocation to cities including New York, Berlin and London and the various spaces he has lived in as an adult. 

Curated by guest curator Rachel Kent, Chief Executive Officer, Bundanon Trust NSW, with Megan Robson, Associate Curator, MCA, the exhibition brings together significant loans from public and private collections, alongside a major new installation.

Rubbing/Loving Project: Seoul Home (2013–2022) is a new large-scale work which is being presented in the MCA’s Level 1 North gallery. In this ambitious project, the artist has meticulously recreated the exterior of his childhood home in Seoul, a traditional Korean hanok house with its characteristic tiled, curved roof, through a series of graphite and mulberry paper rubbings, which remained on the original building for almost a year.

A major display of the artist’s Hub series of sculptures has also been installed in the MCA’s galleries. Visitors will be able to walk around and through six brightly coloured, interconnecting fabric structures of varying heights that replicate transitional spaces such as corridors, entry ways and foyers.

Another exhibition highlight is Staircase-III (2010), on loan from the Tate Collection. Recreated at one-to-one scale in translucent red fabric, Staircase-III refers to the narrow wooden staircase that connected Suh’s apartment with his landlord’s home above, in New York, where Suh lived for twenty years. Bridging worlds, the staircase connects and separates physical space, as well as the lives and memories within. 

Floor (1997-2000) and Who Am We? (Multicoloured) (2000) is being presented together in one of the MCA’s largest galleries. The vast floor-based installation, Floor, features thousands of tiny, sculpted figures. With arms upraised, they collectively support transparent glass plates over which visitors walk. Wrapping around the gallery walls, Who Am We? (Multicoloured) is a custom wallpaper printed with multiple tiny portraits, their individuality evident only on close inspection. 

Suh’s key work Metal Jacket (1992–2001), comprises stainless-steel military identification tags overlain like roof shingles or fish scales, one upon the next, into a traditional Korean hanbok robe with outstretched arms. Recalling the artist’s experience of military service in South Korea, the tags themselves suggest the individuality of the countless people that serve.

Suzanne Cotter, Museum of Contemporary Art Australia Director, said, “Do Ho Suh has been an indelible and eloquent and unforgettable presence for contemporary art in the world for over three decades. The MCA is thrilled to present this first, major survey of the artist’s work in the Southern Hemisphere as part of this year’s Sydney International Art Series. The exhibition continues our twelve-year run of bringing to the MCA exhibitions of today’s most significant artists. Its intelligence and beauty is pure joy and a gift to everyone who will visit.” 

Artist Do Ho Suh said: “It is hugely exciting for me to be exhibiting this body of work at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia. The exhibition traces the journey of my practice over multiple decades and it is a privilege to be inhabiting MCA’s beautiful galleries, and to be showing in Australia. Much of my work is taken up with the idea of how we clothe our movements through the world – through time (linear and non-linear) and place. I’m interested in survival techniques, the spaces we carry within, as well as those we occupy externally. I hope the exhibition will strike a chord at a time when we have all been forced to consider the boundaries and strictures of different spaces anew.” 

Guest curator Rachel Kent, notes: “Do Ho Suh’s evocative artworks sit at the intersection of memory, place and diasporic experience. Reflecting on his own life journey, and the spaces he has inhabited from Seoul to New York to London, they gently map a wider communal experience. If the body is a vessel and the home (or artist’s studio) is its container, Suh’s works suggest the traces of a thousand lives lived, with points of intersection and divergence interwoven through. Encompassing translucent fabric, thread and rubbings on paper, as well as other, more enduring materials, Suh’s works sit between the collective and the individual - reminding us of our shared humanity, and equally, the fine balance between inner and outer worlds.”

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