The maze-like work is a tribute to the architecture of domestic space
Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL
A stroll through artist Do Ho Suh’s ethereal installation, “348 West 22nd Street, Apartment A, Unit-2, Staircase” (2011–2015), offers a refreshingly original spin on our collective interiors obsession. We’re accustomed to training our gaze on objects, furniture, wallpaper — the mainstays of apartment porn — but this piece, newly gifted to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and on view for the first time under natural light beginning Sunday, Nov. 10, forces us to look much deeper.
The transparent and largely hand-sewn, to-scale work painstakingly crafted from translucent polyester over a four-year period and donated anonymously to the museum re-creates the bones of the Korean-born sculptor’s New York apartments sans his belongings or any personalization. What stands out are the rose-hued stitches of building inspection signs, hung askew just as they appear in the building itself, or the blue three-dimensional switches in a hallway electrical panel, or the warped yellow hinges on a closet door.
Suh, who is 57 and currently resides between London, New York and Seoul, has made a practice of re-creating his living spaces to explore and interrogate the concepts of home and migration. He spent years studying Korean sewing techniques early in his career and used silk to re-create one of the gates of his childhood residence (that 2005 piece, called Gate, is also part of the museum’s permanent collection).
Meghan Doherty, a LACMA curator, says Suh’s explorations of place and identity address universal concepts that are often top of mind here in L.A. “This is a city of migration, displacement, and a vibrant fusion of cultures. I think Suh’s notion of a ‘suitcase home,’ where one can fold up and transport an architectural space, holds special resonance here,” she adds.
The museum’s 348 West 22nd Street installation includes the building’s entryway (rendered in pink fabric with matching stitches), his first apartment there (blue), his second flat (yellow) and the (red) staircase he often climbed to visit the building’s aging owner. Viewers walk through the work — four at a time and with museum guides to ensure delicate walls and doorways remain intact — from the front door, through each room, to the back apartment.
Suh’s choice of readily available polyester for this painstaking project is a nod to Korean clothing design, and Doherty says the interplay between dressmaking and homemaking “underscores a fundamental aspect of identity.” After all, she notes, “we define ourselves — and are defined by — how we dress and where we live.” She points to the effect of the polyester’s sheerness in the hallucinatory structures which “collapses the distinction between interior and exterior, private and public.” It’s a neat trick, certain to trigger snapshots — and lots of self-reflection.
Ongoing from Nov. 10. LACMA, 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 323-857-6000.
Feature image: “348 WEST 22ND STREET, APARTMENT A, UNIT-2, STAIRCASE” (2011–2015). All photos by Pablo Mason, 2016, Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Nov. 8, 2019
Discover more CULTURE news.