Introducing Suh Do-Ho

Born and raised in South Korea, Suh Do-Ho moved to the United States in order to continue his studies in the fine arts. He received his bachelor’s degree in painting from the Rhode Island School of Design and received his master’s in fine arts in sculpture from Yale University. Leaving home in order to step out of his father’s shadow, who used to be a famous Korean painter, Suh has now become one of the most famous contemporary Korean artists, exhibiting his works in museums and galleries all over the world.

Cultural Displacement

When one experiences cultural displacement it is natural to begin measuring life by a different standard. Who you are and who you are not, become products of the surrounding customs, cultures, and society you are now a part of.

'Home Within Home Within Home Within Home Within Home'

Upon moving to the United States Suh underwent several difficulties due to language barriers and culture shock. Home Within Home Within Home Within Home Within Home is one of his works that relates reflects the struggle for his cultural identity during that time. If you have been to the MMCA Seoul you might have seen his astonishing installation, that merges contemporary with traditional. In his piece Home within Home…, Suh reconstructed his first residence in the US where he used to live as a student and his father’s house in which he grew up by using transparent fabrics. It is worth noting that Suh made his family’s traditional house hang in the middle of the former giving the idea of a past memory that is now unreachable/untouchable. Despite being filled with a house, visitors might get the impression of emptiness and nostalgia while walking through this piece, which reflect Suh’s feelings during its construction. Suh said that the relocation caused him to cogitate about cultural displacement. Feeling that he was neither in one place nor the other, he tried to mobilize his home. Therefore, by using flimsy fold-able fabric for his work, the artist creates the concept of  “carrying a space in a suitcase”.

 “The experience was about transporting space from one place to the other—a way of dealing
with cultural displacement. And I don’t really get homesick, but I’ve noticed that I have this
longing for this particular space, and I want to recreate that space or bring that space
wherever I go.” (Suh Do-Ho)

Reflecting on his own culture

Another Topic of Suh’s works is the relation between identity, collectivism, and anonymity. Many of his installations involve thousands of identical miniature figures that build up one big sculpture, indicating the presence of an individual among the collective. The repetition of the abstract figures, absent of sex or race, displays the strength of a collective group. By embodying his personal experience of military service (all Korean men must serve 2 years minimum) or cultural background, Suh found new inspiration for his artwork. Collective means unification, simplification, and limited variety. The collective is what Suh connects with his past and cultural background. In Korean culture students are required to wear uniforms in school and Korean men are required to serve their country in the military. Korean society teaches you that you have to adapt to the masses in order to find your place in the collective.

Therefore, Suh Do-Ho is emphasizing one’s own place in a community as shown in Floor (2000) as well as in many of his other works like Who Am We? (2000) or Some/One, all of which focus on the importance of the individual as a representative for a greater body – such as a citizen to their nation.

For more on the MMCA Seoul be sure to check out our article, Through the Lens: MMCA Seoul

If you know of any other Korean artists in need of recognition or you would like to contribute, shoot us an E-mail!

Photo Cred: Yellowtrace | RL of Seoulsync | Phaidon