More than 3,000 different signatures- names of family, friends and acquaintances collected from Do-Ho Suh's personal journals and exhibition guest books– have been hand-stitched onto a thin, suspended layer of linen for Paratrooper-I. The long, pink, loose threads extending from each name are bound together and held by a small, polished stainless steel paratrooper standing atop a concrete base. The figure tugs at the threads as if collecting a deflated or caught parachute. Paratrooper-I explores notions of human relationships, displacement, personal history and personal space. The paratrooper acts as a metaphor for being dropped into and surviving amidst a new environment, and thus, his reliance on his parachute for a safe landing is key. The singular threads in the work, none of which touch another, bind and relate the isolated figure to the individuals represented by the signatures. These strands become deliberate lifelines equally responsible for the fate and existence of the individual.
Among Do-Ho Suh’s best known and most compelling works are a series of stylized jackets or robes made of thousands of stainless steel military dog tags. Each tag identifies a distinct individual, here merged into a homogenous layer of metal armor, the impermeable façade of military power. The specificity of each tag is lost in translation as it becomes a garment to be donned by a larger-than-life figure. While Suh may not be intentionally commenting on U.S./Korea relations, these powerful presences do bring with them memories of the thousands of American soldiers from the Eighth Army who entered Korea with General Douglas MacArthur in 1950, as well as the 30,000 U.S. soldiers still present in Korea today.
Suh's intricate sculptures defy conventional notions of scale and site-specificity, drawing attention to the ways viewers occupy and inhabit public space. Whether addressing the dynamic of personal space versus public space, or exploring the fine line between strength in numbers and homogeneity, Suh’s sculptures continually question the identity of the individual in today’s increasingly transnational, global society.
Suh was born in Seoul, Korea in 1962. He lives and works in New York.
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