"Do-Ho Suh" at Lehmann Maupin
30 May 30 – 18 July 2003
Do-Ho Suh’s second solo exhibition at Lehmann Maupin features The Perfect House II, which resembles at first a site-specific installation. Centered in the gallery is a full-scale apartment interior hand-sewn from diaphanous nylon, complete with intricately detailed doorknobs, light fixtures, and ceiling tiles. However, like the Korean-born artist’s contribution to P.S.1’s 2000 survey “Greater New York,” Seoul Home/L.A. Home/New York Home/Baltimore Home, The Perfect House II can in fact be packed into suitcases and transported from place to place. Further, each time it is shown will bring additional spaces in an endless chain of morphological permutations. For Lehmann Maupin, Suh added a stairway; up next is the area immediately outside his ground floor windows.
Crossbreeding Robert Irwin’s translucent scrims, Claes Oldenberg’s sagging sculptures, and the portability of Duchamp’s Boite-en-valise, Suh pinpoints one key aspect of recent art: what art historian Miwon Kwon has termed the “unhinging” of site specificity. Rather than the art object itself, Kwon writes, “it is now the performative aspect of an artist’s characteristic mode of operation. . . that is repeated and circulated as a new art commodity, with the artist functioning as the primary vehicle for its verification, repetition, and circulation.” Suh’s unique contribution to this discussion – one succinctly encapsulated at Lehmann Maupin – is how he poses the conundrum: not just as a spatial disjunction between an immobile work and a mobile artist peregrinating from biennial to art fair to museum on the international exhibition circuit, but as a temporal disjunction as well.
Consider the infelicity of the work’s title. While The Perfect House II replicates the artist’s Chelsea apartment – and thus is premised on autobiographical fact and actuality of place – the insertion of the adjective “perfect” intimates an ideal either projected into the future or retrospectively colored through the lens of nostalgia. Indeed, entering The Perfect House II is akin to walking into an architect’s blueprint. The economy of material as well as the use of color-coding to designate function (blue for the kitchen and bathroom, green for the staircase, and rose for the bedroom and corridor) recall the schematic if nonetheless exacting austerity of a template. A model for a future house to be, Suh’s rendition of architectural elements in near-immaterial cloth simultaneously evoke a trace of what once was. A sense of memory permeates The Perfect House II.
Suh once stated, “My artistic inquiry doesn’t only concern physical space, but …includes the history, culture, and memories we all carry with us.” Fittingly, even as The Perfect House II initially appears to possess a concern with space that has characterized much site-specific art since the 1970s, it further brings in the element of time. In so doing, Suh provides a unique and potentially invaluable contribution to contemporary art in the wake of site specificity.