Like the moment of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism,
passing through a gate takes only a split second,
and then it's over. . . I wanted to extend that moment of
passage, to delay it, if only for an instant, to provide
the viewer that moment of insight.
~ Artist Do Ho Suh, on Gate
The Seattle Art Museum's exhibition "Luminous: The Art of Asia" ended January 8 but those lucky enough to see the exhibition in person also found themselves in the presence of a contemporary artist of uncommon talent: Do Ho Suh (b. 1962), who not only provided commentary about the masterpieces on view (see "Artist Do Ho Suh Talks About His Role in SAM Exhibit") but also created a multimedia installation, Gate, especially for the show. Comprising a fabric curtain that serves as a screen for projected images, a magical passageway, and a threshold through which one enters to reach a new space, Gate, Suh explains, allows us to explore notions of emptiness. "Our notion of emptiness is quite different in the East", the artist says. "The void is not empty or bleak but charged with meaning."
I've watched several different videos of Gate and each time come away marveling at what Suh has achieved. Watch the following 2:58-minute clip to get an impression of just how compelling a work Gate is:
You'll find additional short clips of Gate, showing it from different perspectives, here (2:26 minutes) and here (1:33 minutes).
The Korean-born Suh, who came to the United States in 1993 and now lives in New York and London, also created for SAM Some/One (2001), a poetic large-scale sculpture created from life-size stainless-steel military dog-tags, nickel-plated copper sheets, glass fiber reinforced resin, rubber sheets, and a steel structure. It's a provocative installation, raising questions about identity, both individual (each tag representing one soldier) and collective (the military as literally disembodied). The hardness of the steel in the completed sculpture evokes images of impenetrable armor, yet the armor is but scores of thin metal dog-tags, each calling up the memory of a life lost. Listen to Suh talk about Some/One here. His sculpture was first exhibited at (and subsequently acquired by) SAM in 2002.
Suh's Staircase, for the exhibition "Dreamscapes" at the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, is shown being installed in this video and in place in this video. In this video, you can see the piece as it looked at Tate Modern. Another of Suh's installations exploring perceptions of personal space is floor (1997-2000), seen in a very brief clip here. Images of floor installed at the Indianapolis Museum of Art may be seen here. Additional work that merits attention includes Cause and Effect, commissioned for Western Washington University's Academic Instructional Center; Home Within Home, which was exhibited at Lehmann Maupin Gallery in New York City; and Paratrooper at Tufts University Art Gallery (2008).
Following is an informative and insightful art21 presentation (2003) with Do Ho Suh:
Do Ho Suh's Fallen Star, 2008-2011, Video (Also see Do Ho Suh, Fallen Star, Stuart Collection at University of California/San Diego, here. You'll find a selection of images and background on the commissioned work. This article on the installation at Los Angeles County Museum of Art also is noteworthy.)
Do Ho Suh Interview at DesignBoom
Do Ho Suh on FaceBook