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Here’s a quick take on Do-Ho Suh, the Korean-born hot New York artist whose work is at the Fabric Workshop and Museum and the Morris Gallery in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

The piece to die for is at the Fab–“Paratrooper V.” He’s a cast stainless steel paratrooper hefting parachute cords, which are 5,500 lipstick-red threads. The threads, which are each equally tense but not exactly taut, together exert so much pull, said Suh in a walk-around tour of his pieces on opening night last week, that the paratrooper and the cast concrete pyramid on which he stands had to be anchored through the concrete floor to the downstairs level. I want to know how Suh got the tension so even and the threads so untangled (right top, “Paratrooper V,” linen, polyester, thread, cast stainless steel, cast concrete, plastic beads, 110 x 281 1/2 x 197 inches).

The cords/threads connect to 5,500 signatures embroidered into a blue parachute mounted on the wall, the names closest to the center being Suh’s family and friends, and as the circle widens, the connections to Suh get more distant, but still relate to him in some way–a sort of 2 or 3 degrees of separation. Also included on the parachute are signatures from Suh’s gallery books, he said (left, “Paratrooper 5” detail).

As for the paratrooper hefting the entwined threads, he’s He-Man on steroids, as is the hank he’s hefting, which takes on the grace of rich curtain tie-backs and swags. There’s an Asian aesthetic playing here–in the figure, the colors, and the tassle of red threads. I’m also reminded of how today’s muscular G.I. Joes are probably made in Asia and are not much like the historic, stiff little lead toy soldiers who were more about their uniforms than their bodies.

The modern toy quality of this paratrooper comes out again in “Screen,” Suh’s most recent piece, also at the Fab (right, “Screen” detail, ABS, stainless steel, 121 1/2 x 516 x 3/4 inches).
The hundreds of figures are mass-produced, toy soldier-ish people in 18 (non-skin) colors, including men and women in a variety of attire, from business clothes to overalls. Their stance is powerful, legs apart, arms raised, and they are interlocked, snapped together, in a united-we-stand grand gesture that bisects the gallery room (left, “Screen” installation shot).

More vulnerable and thoroughly un-toylike is “Paratrooper II” at PAFA, a life-size, slumped, knitted figure in red and silver, supported by 225 organza shirts, also in reds and silvers, that together form a parachute. This piece, which was made in collaboration with The Fab, also suggests that we are interwoven in the fabric of humankind, relying on the family of man past and present to hold us up. They also suggest there’s a lot of people on this earth (right, “Paratrooper 2” body detail, knitted monofilament, resin, nylon, poly organza, stainless steel armature).
I want to send these sculptures aboard paper airplanes to Dubya, al-Quaida, Kim Il-Jung, etc., etc. I’ll be waiting for the doves to fly back to me (left, “Paratrooper 2” chute detail, 192 x 180 inches diameter).
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