Known for gauzy, room-size installations memorializing spaces in which he has lived, the Korean-born Do Ho Suh exudes primal notions of home, displacement, and memory in his work. This double show was titled “Drawings”—an understatement. Suh’s new Rubbing/Loving Project, which occupied both Lehmann Maupin venues, is pencil on paper pinned to boards. Yet in Chelsea, his gorgeous 1:1-scale, blue-pencil rubbings of the walls and fixtures of Apartment A at 348 West 22nd Street, where he formerly lived, were more like a wonderfully deconstructed installation. Rubbings on paper have been the blueprints for all of his fabric works; however this was the first time he showed them.
Beyond the gallery’s entrance was the freestanding brick outer wall of his erstwhile abode; the apartment’s interior wall was tacked to the other side. Rubbings of the hallway surfaces, the bathroom and its fixtures, and the kitchen complete with cabinets filled the walls. The tactile blue rubbings, affixed with red map tacks, were quietly sensuous, as if Suh were caressing the familiar personal space. On the ground: a 1:1-scale rubbing of the apartment’s floors.
At the Christie Street space, a loveable pink rubbing of the apartment corridor’s deadbolts, pipes, and doorknobs led back to Suh’s Korean past with two freestanding room structures commissioned for the 2012 Gwangju Biennial: an abandoned dormitory room at Gwangju Catholic Lifelong Institute, and the abandoned Company Housing of Gwangju Theater. One was rubbed with multicolored pencils; the other (accompanied by the sounds of its own making), was made with grungy gray graphite while the artist was blindfolded. In these decrepit rooms, Suh’s sense of space becomes overtly political and historical: the blindfold refers to government censorship of the 1980 Gwangju uprising and student massacre. And the desire to forget that indelible event was why Gwangju was originally chosen as the site of a biennial.
A version of this story originally appeared in the December 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 110.