Tracing space: Do Ho Suh at Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati
Bill Clinton was one of the first people to visit Do Ho Suh’s latest exhibition – a major survey presenting the Korean-American artist’s acclaimed work that opened at the Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati this weekend. The former US president paused for a photo op in front of the exhibition – entitled ’Passage’ – before continuing his tour of the Queen City.
It’s as good a promotional picture as you could hope to get ahead of an opening; and in itself created an interesting dialogue with the artist’s oeuvre and his studies of the mutable and phantasmagorical qualities of space. They are imaginings of the absent things that have passed through and yet somehow leave a trace, as well as of the possibilities of other elements to surprise and transform.
Do Ho Suh is best known for his ruminations on the idea of home, informed by the artist’s own migrations and the places he has lived in (South Korea, Europe and the US). This survey, however, is rooted specifically in the CAC’s Zaha Hadid-designed building and the ways in which ’the structure could be navigated as a single, porous passage’.
’Do Ho was inspired by the idea of a building as a singular, unending passageway and the works selected for the show have amplified that quality within his own work,’ explains curator Steven Matijcio. ’It highlights the purposefully partial nature of his practice and the transgressive qualities that subvert the fixity of home with the ubiquity of transition and the infinity of movement.’ In the context of today’s crisis, these reflections resonate deeply and far beyond the place they began.
Two years in the making, the artist worked closely with Matijcio to conceptualise the exhibition, after a visit to the space in 2014. ’Do Ho worked tirelessly to fit new and existing works into the space so that they feel magically site specific. Working with him has been a profound experience and his work has created an unparalleled synergy with the space, and both the building and the work have opened up one another to inspiring new readings.’
Among the work on show are two new video installations, Passage and Stroller – created specifically for the exhibition – as well as architectural works; these rubbings, works on paper, scale models and documentary materials presented alongside the installations give an unprecedented insight into Do Ho’s way of working. Matijcio emphasises their importance: ’By having the rest of the work in context it returns and highlights the very human underpinning and infrastructure of this work. As much as it pushes to ideas of abstract movement, this work is a meeting place for us to realise we are part of much larger sequences, series, timelines and collectives.’