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  • 10.31.13

Ghost In The Machines: Spirits Move Into An Artist’s Dingy NY Apartment

Korean artist Do Ho Suh transforms the stuff of his Manhattan apartment into ephemeral sculptures.

It’s in the great tradition of starving artists that not-so-struggling artist Do Ho Suh presents his new exhibition, Specimen Series. Where van Gogh turned his curious gaze inward in his tiny Arles chambre, Suh’s first solo exhibition consists of six new sculptures that re-create the trappings of his former Manhattan apartment.

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A refrigerator, bathtub, and medicine cabinet are among the full-size replicas Suh has crafted for the Lehmann Maupin Gallery in Hong Kong. As in his previous work, the pieces stand out for their not-quite-there ephemerality.

The Seoul-born, New York-based artist has become known for his dollhouse-like installations, neatly rendered in translucent polyester fabric. In them, the material was stretched taut to stand in for the flat wall planes of Suh’s childhood home, and later, his apartments in Berlin and New York. With Specimen Series, he addresses the poetics of urban domestic life anew.


In Suh’s hands, the hardy, weathered articles of New York apartments are transformed into light, contemplative objects, similar to van Gogh’s wood bed frame or Morandi’s tea cups. The virtual fixtures are isolated from their context, thereby enhancing the innate sculptural qualities of, say, a radiator or commode. Stiffened by bent-iron rods, Suh’s trademark polyester reveals the layers of drawers and compartments hiding just beneath the surface of your average household appliance.

The sculptures have a ghost-like presence (their melancholic blue hue recalls the film version of Casper the Friendly Ghost) that straddles reality and virtual space. These are objects translated from one medium to another, literally displaced–something that Suh has described as “the difference between my mother tongue and foreign tongue.”

Specimen Series will open at the Lehmann Maupin, Hong Kong, on November 14 and will run through January 25.

About the author

Sammy is a writer, designer, and ice cream maker based in New York. He once lived in China before being an editor at Architizer.

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