.Do Ho Suh at Cantor Arts Center

Artist creates hypnotic patterns out of repetitive human forms

‘Who Am We?’ by Do Ho Suh features myriad faces on seven sets of four-color offset wallpaper. Do Ho Suh

If you weren’t careful, you could walk right into Do Ho Suh’s multicolored acrylic chandelier Cause and Effect (2007). It’s the first piece you see in the Korean artist’s exhibit The Spaces in Between. Suspended from the ceiling, the sculpture hangs low enough for visitors to examine the translucent details at eye level. Up close, you can distinguish hundreds of doll-size men linked together by their arms and legs, one man straddling the back of the man below him so that a chain of bodies forms all the way to the top of the gallery.

Suh has manufactured each one in a delicate palette that conjures up a spring garden made of glass. There are rose-colored men on top of lilac ones. Others are the color of bluebells, buttercups or the scintillating green of a dragonfly’s back. The artist appears to have settled on three different kinetic poses: standing, striding and kneeling. Arms fold around chests and ankles, each pair of hands enfolding the body above and below. It’s hard to imagine the room it would decorate—a surrealist’s palace, perhaps—with its strange arrangement of human forms, a rainbow made of limbs, heads and torsos.

Screen (2005) stands behind it and corresponds with the massive chandelier. It, too, is made of colorful doll-like people, but there are men and women both, and they’re clothed. You can even make out a tiny pattern etched into some of the posterior pants pockets. Instead of linking them, Suh’s lined them up in jumping jack poses, their hands held high above their heads. He stacks them lengthwise in rows forming a pattern, a net of X’s and O’s. There is a variety of faces, but their expressions all share a pitilessness. These stocky bodies of an unnamed nation are united and ready to triumph for some common cause. They could be ready to start a war or about to protest one.

Both of these installations are so eye-catching, impressive in color and scale, that visitors might fail to notice Who Am We? (2000). From a distance, the beige screens suggest they’re merely decor to offset the chandelier’s brilliance. But as you move in close enough to worry your nose, the panels are filled with hundreds of faces like miniature cameos or the opened windows of an Advent calendar. These are portraits of Do Ho Suh’s high school classmates. He can’t have had thousands and thousands of fellow students, but he’s printed them out in multitudes to foster that illusion. He either assembled them en masse because he cherishes his adolescent memories, or he’s re-created the nightmare of still being taunted by their million smiling faces.

Do Ho Suh: The Spaces in Between
Thru Feb 25, Free
Cantor Arts Center, Stanford


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