All posts in “Object of the Week”

Painting Number 49, Berlin

Object of the Week: Painting Number 49, Berlin

This Object of the Week is inspired by SAM’s special tour series, part of “For Freedoms’ 50 State Initiative,” which features programming held at arts institutions across the US to create civic dialogue about the 2018 midterm elections. Reflecting on artwork and exhibitions on view at SAM, staff members are presenting in-gallery tours that consider each of the four freedoms and connect to contemporary society.

“For Freedoms,” a collaborative project founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman, is inspired by artist Norman Rockwell’s paintings of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” (1941)—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

This week’s post by SAM staff member Rachel Eggers explores freedom of speech in the work of Marsden Hartley.

Marsden Hartley (1877–1943) was an innovative Modernist artist, incorporating elements of abstraction, Expressionism, Cubism, and Primitivism in his paintings. Born in Lewiston, Maine, Hartley is known for expressive visions of his home state, including landscapes and portraits of fisherman.

But Hartley was more than a regionalist. Perhaps his most intriguing body of work is his “German officer paintings,” created while living in Berlin from 1914 to 1915. SAM has one of these extraordinary paintings in its collection, and Painting Number 49, Berlin is now on view in tribute to the late arts patron and collector, Barney A. Ebsworth, who gifted it to the museum. The painting’s thick brushstrokes, vivacious primary colors, and mysterious abstracted symbolism reveal an artist enraptured and enrapturing, enticing the viewer with a deeply personal vision that melds the physical and spiritual—and, sometimes uncomfortably, the political.

Hartley arrived in Berlin in May 1913, though it felt to the artist like a homecoming. The imperial German capital was a hub of industrial innovation and social life; it also had a relatively liberal attitude toward homosexuality. He was delighted by the city’s grand military parades, with their ostentatious display of banners, flags, plumage, and men on white horses. In them, he saw a heroic ideal of Man.

He had befriended a Prussian officer named Karl von Freyburg, who may have been the love of his life. When von Freyburg died in battle at the age of 24, Hartley plunged into a deep grief—and eventually to the creation of this fascinating series of paintings.

Painting Number 49, Berlin is exuberant, loose, and colorful—but, at its heart, it’s a memorial portrait rendered in abstracted symbols. At the center is the Iron Cross, the medal for bravery that von Freyburg was awarded. There’s an officer’s plumed helmet and epaulets; the number “24” refers to Karl’s age when he was killed. Across the bottom blooms a setting sun, radiating red: the color of martyrdom.

The painting bursts with uncomfortable—even heartbreaking—tensions between youth and death, the state and the individual, openness and restriction, color and darkness. Unable to express his sexuality and his love, Hartley turns to a network of symbols and signs. In his unimaginable grief, he merges the physical, the spiritual—and of course, the political—inventing a highly personal visual language.

–Rachel Eggers, Manager of Public Relations

Image: Painting Number 49, Berlin, 1914-15, Marsden Hartley, oil on canvas, 47 x 39 1/2 in., Partial and promised gift of Barney A. Ebsworth, 2001.1067.
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Object of the Week: Caterpillar Suit I

“True transformation occurs only when we can look at ourselves squarely and face our attachments and inner demons, free from the buzz of commercial distraction and false social realities. We have to retreat into our own cocoons and come face-to-face with who we are. We have to turn toward our own inner darkness. For only by abandoning its attachments and facing the darkness does the caterpillar’s body begin to spread out and its light, beautiful wings begin to form.”

– Julia Hill, The Legacy of Luna

As a child of immigrants, and an immigrant myself, I adopted the identity of being an “Other” and “Alien” from a fairly young age. My parents have depended on me to fill out official forms and documents since I was old enough to interpret 70% of the words on the page and Google the rest. Any time the question of citizenship came up, my hand would naturally gravitate towards the box next to the word “Other” as if it were second nature. I never really understood what it meant—I just knew it should be kept from my peers out of shame and fear of being different.

Walter Oltmann, through his sculpture Caterpillar Suit I, shares and explains his interest in the boundary between human beings and insects—referring to the latter as “[our] most extreme other.”[1] He explains that as “insects evoke notions of threat, especially when encountered in swarms,” we as human beings fail to identify with this “Other” and naturally recoil/feel repulsed by this exotic entity.[2] Thus, we create a divide between “us” and “them.”

In the current state of our country, the word “Other” seems to be thrown around more often than it has in the past. The media exposes us to “Other” and “Alien” in bold, red font, associated with terms and phrases such as “illegal,” “criminal,” and even “invading in swarms,” distancing the reader or viewer from this ominous other. It permits and trains the broader public to fabricate a certain image of these other beings, and subconsciously feel repulsed when they hear stories in the news framed around the politics of immigration. But how accurate are our expectations of this “other” entity, especially when they’ve been influenced by biased opinions of the media? Oltmann, in enlarging the scale of the normally miniscule caterpillar, purposefully forces his audience to “observe misunderstood insects closely” and “identify with the other” in hopes of shifting our perspective that’s usually fixated on their mechanical features and alien behavior and the threat they pose to us.[3]

Rather than turning to the immediate discomfort and repulsion that might follow a failure to identify with an “other,” or those different from ourselves, perhaps we can find inspiration through this Caterpillar Suit and practice shifting our perspective from distancing ourselves from otherness to understanding and accepting one another.

– Seohee Kim, SAM Emerging Arts Leader Intern

[1] Vargas, Cintia. “Interview with Walter Oltmann.” Cintia Vargas, 17 Apr. 2014, www.cintiareyes.com/interview-with-walter-oltman/
[2] “Walter Oltmann.” The Artists’ Press, www.artprintsa.com/Walter-Oltmann.html
[3] Leiman, Layla. “Walter Oltmann – In the Weave: 30 Years of Making Art.” Derriere, WordPress, 29 Jan. 2014, derriereartblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/29/walter-oltmann-in-the-weave-30-years-of-making-art/
Images: Installation view of Lessons from The Institute of Empathy at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photos: Natali Wiseman.
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Object of the Week: Soundsuit

In this special edition of Object of the Week, the three Empathics who have taken up residence at SAM in the installation Lessons from the Institute of Empathy share their thoughts on Nick Cave’s Soundsuit. The Empathics are part of ChimaTEK: Virtual Chimeric Space by contemporary artist Saya Woolfalk. They have surrounded themselves with works from our African art collection and are asking questions and sharing information about the art as a way to help visitors awaken their own empathy.

EMPATHIC LESSON: CONSIDER THE CHIMERIC

Nick Cave’s suits mix anatomical features in a perplexing way. Are they human or not? This question is being asked in science as human and nonhuman species can be merged to create new forms of life, known as chimeras. Does this combination show disrespect for human dignity or is it a step toward progress? The Empathics wonder what the potential of crossing species might be.

Using hair collected from barber shops in Chicago is a strategic move that Nick Cave explains: “The hair creates an animal sensibility. You know it’s hair, but you don’t know where it comes from. It’s seductive, but also a bit scary. Animals have so much to teach us. I hope that by merging animal parts with human parts in these Soundsuits, I force people to pay attention to what they are doing to our earth and the animals living here with us. I’m having fun and using whimsical circus imagery to ask people to consider the underlying tragedy we are perpetrating. We have to find ways to live with each other, extend our compassion to other communities and take care of our natural resources.”

Nick Cave goes on to share the history of his Soundsuits, two of which are on view. “My first Soundsuit was made out of twigs. The initial concept came from the Rodney King incident and the Los Angeles riots in 1992; as I was reading about the riots, I was thinking about the feeling that I was dealing with as a black male, feeling smaller, devalued, invalid . . . the incident was larger than life: six policemen bringing Mr. King down. . . . I was in the park one day, sitting, thinking about everything around the riot, and then I looked on the ground and found a twig. I created a sculpture from twigs. . . . When I put it on and started to move in it, I realized that it made a sound and I began to think a lot about protest, that in order to protest you have to be heard, and in order to be heard you have to be aggressive.”

– The Empathics, The Institute of Empathy

Images: Soundsuit, 2006, Nick Cave, fabricated fencing mask, human hair, sweaters, beads, and metal wire, approx. 6 feet tall, on mannequin, Gift of the Vascovitz Family in honor of the 75th Anniversary of the Seattle Art Museum, 2007.70 © Nick Cave. Installation view of Lessons from the Institute of Empathy at Seattle Art Museum, 2018, photos: Natali Wiseman.

 

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Object of the Week: Power Plant I

Born in 1880, Arthur Dove was a master of abstraction, light, and color, always seeking to capture the hidden rhythms and feeling of his given environments—whether natural or man-made. In Power Plant I (1938), Dove transforms a looming building into shifting planes of color and shape. The plant, its smoke stacks, and surrounding telephone poles are in reality solid and immutable, but Dove renders them formless, with all dimensionality equalized on the canvas.

One of four artists recently installed in our American galleries, Dove (like the rest of his cohort) is celebrated for his unique approach to abstraction, which evokes—rather than describes—the world around us. Below is an excerpt from an essay by Dove, titled “Me and Modern Art,”[1] that sheds light on his thinking and approach to painting that sheds light on his thinking and approach to painting:

It is sometimes refreshing just to be painting with no plans; by that I mean pure painting, with no further intention.

            It has a tendency to make one feel the two-dimensionality of a canvas, a certain flatness which is so important in the balance of things, and often so difficult to attain.

            I have seen a child of five do it beautifully, and after three years in school be absolutely unable to accomplish it again. How well I remember the answer when two grown ups came in and asked the child what he was thinking of when he painted those things. Simply “I wasn’t thinking of anything, I was just painting.”

            Pure painting is extremely helpful in finding one’s own instincts. It helps us to see how much stronger is our imagination than our intellect. There is too much of the intellectual in art nowadays, and pure painting tends twoard [sic] the elimination of this intellectual forcing process.

            We must learn by our own mistakes and find our own find. Profiting by the mistakes of others, and building up knowledge through the findings of others may make an artist successful but it will never make him creative.

            They may say that we cannot create anything, that everything has been done. Perhaps, it doesn’t matter—if we have not done it. That may be the real reason that I am writing this—because I have never done it.,[sic]—instinctively I dislike the idea of writing “about” things and painting “about” things. Have always felt that it is much better to write things and paint things that exist in themselves and do not carry the mind back to some object upon which they depend for their existence. We lean too heavily on nature. I would rather look at nature than to try to imitate it. In the same way I enjoy looking at a Greco, a Cezanne [sic], or an Afircan [sic] sculpture, but have no desire to do one. And if we find at any time that we are depending too much on any one thing, we will also find that it is by just that much that we have missed finding our own inner selves.

Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Power Plant I, 1938, Arthur Dove, oil on canvas, 25 x 35 in., Partial and promised gift of Mr. and Mrs. Howard S. Wright, in honor of the Museum’s 50th year, 84.64 ©
Artist or Artist’s Estate
[1] Arthur Dove essay, “Me and Modern Art,” not after 1946. Arthur and Helen Torr Dove papers, 1905-1975, 1920-1946. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
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Object of the Week: Mary, Queen of Scots

“…I could not believe that all these seemingly important contributions of women had been omitted from the mainstream of culture, be it in art, literature, history, or philosophy. My discoveries intersected with the values of my upbringing—which had emphasized the possibility of radical transformation—and led me to conclude that the only real solution to the problems I was facing lay in the creation of an entirely new framework for art: one that included, rather than excluded, women, along with women’s ways of being and doing, which, I was convinced, could be quite different from men’s.”

– Judy Chicago, Beyond the Flower: The Autobiography of a Feminist Artist, 1996

It would be an understatement to summarize Judy Chicago as simply “a pioneering feminist artist,” for her impact is far greater than those four words can suggest. Perhaps best known for her 1979 work The Dinner Party, which celebrates the achievements of women in Western culture, Chicago has throughout her decades-long career dedicated herself to the research and representation of women artists, writers, thinkers, and historical figures. Deploying a wide range of female symbols and domestic craft traditions typically considered “women’s work,” Chicago has redefined the art historical canon and inserted herself—and other women—within it.

In the years prior to The Dinner Party, from 1972 to 1973, Chicago created a series of paintings entitled Great Ladies, dedicated to historical queens such as Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, and Queen Victoria. Considered “abstract portraits,” these paintings served to represent the lives of important women in history and “challenge the overriding presumption that women had no history to speak of.”[1] The pictured lithograph, Mary, Queen of Scots (1973), is based on paintings from the series and bears Chicago’s signature visual style: radiating spiral lines that resemble that of flower petals or sunrays, rendered in soft, muted pastels. Chicago once described her formal approach to the series as an attempt “to make my form-language and color reveal something really specific about a particular woman in history, like the quality of opening and blockage and stopping, the whole quality of a personality.”[2]

In fact, bordering the image is text, written by Chicago in Palmer Method cursive: “This print was originally intended to be brightly colored with a glowing yellow center and a blue-green outside edge. It was to be titled Mary Tudor/Mary Sunshine—Mary Tudor, the Queen, daughter of Henry the 8th and Catherine of Aragon; Mary Sunshine, the printer. As I’ve worked, the image changed, becoming more subdued and quiet. Now it reminds me of Mary, Queen of Scots, the proud woman locked up in the tower for her ambitiousness.” This first-person description sheds light on Chicago’s process, as well as the specificity and closeness she feels to the women she portrays.

Despite the historical debates that still center on Mary, Queen of Scots, Chicago celebrates her accomplishments as an ambitious woman and role as a major political figure in 16th-century Europe. In the words of the artist, “One reason for my staunch and abiding commitment to feminism is that I believe its principles provide valuable tools for empowerment—and not only for women. In my view, feminist values are rooted in an alternative to the prevailing paradigm of power, which is power over others. By contrast, feminism promotes personal empowerment, something that, when connected to education, becomes a potent tool for change.”[3]

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

[1] Judy Chicago, Beyond the Flower: The Autobiography of a Feminist Artist (New York: Penguin Books, 1996), 36.

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/07/t-magazine/judy-chicago-dinner-party.html

[3] Chicago, 27.

Image: Mary, Queen of Scots, 1973, Judy Chicago, lithograph, 20 x 20 in., Gift of Bruce Guenther, 82.189.
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Object of the Week: A Woman with Red Hair

A picture frame is, or should be, more than an adjunct to a work of art. If properly made, it is itself a work of art.

– Bill Barol, “The Carrig-Rohane Frame,” 1989

William McGregor Paxton’s Woman with Red Hair is an exemplar late work by the Boston School artist. Well-known for his attention to detail—especially capturing the effects of light—Paxton’s portraits often depict elegant women in minimally decorated rooms. However, unlike his earlier and larger body of work, the sitter here is removed from an interior setting and set against a rich, nearly impasto teal background. Our focus as viewers is placed solely on the woman, her features, and Paxton’s mastery of light and color.

Yet, there is one more element of the work that is impossible to ignore: its frame. Meticulously carved and gilded, it is a piece of art in its own right. All too often frames are overlooked for what they surround, but this Carrig-Rohane frame, designed and fabricated by Herman Dudley Murphy in 1911, holds its own and complements the Paxton painting.

Prior to his career as a framemaker, Murphy studied at the Boston Museum School and worked as an illustrator. Like many young artists he moved to Paris, and for five years (1891–1896) studied with artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler. Whistler believed, quite radically for the time, that a frame and a painting should be in harmony, and as a result manufactured his own frames. Murphy’s relationship with Whistler proved formative and, upon his return to the United States in 1897, Murphy taught himself how to carve and gild. Discouraged by the poor quality of American frames, he eventually opened his own business in 1903—Carrig-Rohane—in the basement of his Winchester, Massachusetts home.[1]

As evidenced by Whistler, a new appreciation and consideration of the frame as integral to the display of painting emerged in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, part of a larger artistic and aesthetic shift toward the handmade that defined the Arts and Crafts movement. The importance of the frame during this period is encapsulated in the writing of art critic Percy Fitzgerald, who in 1886 described the gold frame as that which “seems to enrich everything it touches.” He also penned that the frame “suggests the notion of an abstract boundary or zone between the vulgar surrounding world and the sort of spiritual life of Art.”[2] Both the Carrig-Rohane frame and Paxton painting are currently on view in the American Galleries, so I encourage you to see—and judge—for yourself.

Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

[1] “Continuing the Tradition: Grundmann Studios,” in The Boston School Tradition: Truth, Beauty and Timeless Craft (Boston: Vose Galleries, 2015), 53.
[2] Percy Fitzgerald, The Art Journal (London: J.S. Virtue & Co., 1886), 40.

Image: A Woman with Red Hair, 1922, William McGregor Paxton, oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in., Gift of the Estate of Bruce Leven, 2018.5.1.

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Object of the Week: Whale Effigy Charm

There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath . . . for here, millions of mixed shades and shadows, drowned dreams, somnambulisms, reveries; all that we call lives and souls, lie dreaming, dreaming, still; tossing like slumberers in their beds; the ever-rolling waves but made so by their restlessness.

– Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Chapter 111: The Pacific

This past week there have been a few heart-wrenching whale stories circulating the news, the most difficult of which centers on Tahlequah, a grieving mother orca who has carried her dead calf for over ten days in the waters near Victoria, British Columbia. The widespread sadness surrounding Tahlequah’s loss points to our human impulse to anthropomorphize and, more importantly, to empathize. And while this tendency to project our human emotions onto animals is often discouraged by scientists, orcas are among the most cognitively, socially, and emotionally sophisticated mammals on the planet and, for good reason, have been venerated by different cultures for millennia.

Perceived by many as the sovereigns of the world’s oceans, whales are magnificent creatures. This whale effigy charm is a testament to the whale’s status in Chumash culture, even in 1200-1600. Measuring three inches in length, this effigy of a whale—believed to be an orca—is rendered with an undeniable smile. Even its inlaid eyes exude a certain kindness. Indeed, according to anthropologist Robert L. Hoover, “the killer whale [orca] was regarded by the Chumash as a benevolent creature which drove schools of porpoises and whales ashore where they could be utilized by man.”[1] Carved from soapstone (steatite) likely obtained from Catalina Island, this effigy also possesses a bone tube which, coupled with the functional blowhole, is suggestive of a pipe mouthpiece.

According to Chumash historians and legend, such carved stone effigies were used as charms to ensure luck in fishing or hunting along the Southern California coast (from present-day Malibu to Morro Bay). The magical qualities of these effigies were believed to be obtained from the guidance of a spirit helper, and useless to anyone except its owner.[2] The question of whale hunting has been debated for decades, but the Chumash did not actively hunt orca whales; they were eaten only when they were washed on shore. Swordfish were significant marine animals for this reason, fabled to drive whales onto the beach and provide food during the winter months.

It is very hard not to anthropomorphize this charming whale effigy (for me, at least . . .), especially when the object itself bears human traits and evidences just one of our many emotional, cultural, and spiritual connections to these amazing creatures—these sovereigns of the sea.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

[1] Robert L. Hoover, “Some Observations on Chumash Prehistoric Stone Effigies,” The Journal of California Anthropology 1, no. 1 (1974): 34.

[2] “Chumash Indian Fish Effigy,” California Department of Parks and Recreation, accessed August 8, 2018, http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=23549.

Image: Whale effigy charm: “Cloud Blower”, 1200-1600, Chumash, steatite, 3 x 1 1/2 in., L.: 3 3/4 in., Eugene Fuller Memorial Collection, 59.55

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Object of the Week: Boys Blowing Bubbles

For centuries, Boys Blowing Bubbles was attributed to Jacob van Oost, a baroque Flemish artist who saw great success during his lifetime. A visiting scholar to SAM in the 1980s even noted that Boys Blowing Bubbles was “one of his best” works. Unfortunately for van Oost, this painting was not his at all—the painting is by an artist named Michaelina Woutiers. Centuries of inaccurate and sexist art historical treatment placed her in relative obscurity, but thanks to the scholarship of the University of Leuven’s Katlijne Van der Stighelen, Woutiers has been reclaimed as the rightful creator of this work. As a result, the Seattle Art Museum officially changed the attribution of Boys Blowing Bubbles to Michaelina Woutiers (ca. 1620–after 1682) in 2007. Now, just a little over a decade later, Boys Blowing Bubbles is on loan to the Museum aan de Stroom (in association with the Rubenshuis in Antwerp, Belgium) in the first-ever exhibition dedicated to Woutiers, exhibiting almost every single painting that has been attributed to the artist to date.

Woutiers was unique as a woman artist at a time when women’s lives were extremely constricted in European society. She was also unique among her peers—who were mostly men—due to the unusually wide variety of subject matter she addressed, and her ability to paint beautifully lifelike portraits.¹ Unlike most other women of the time, Woutiers did not marry. Instead, she lived with her brother Charles, also an artist, which allowed her to continue painting throughout her life. Also unlike many women artists, Woutiers had a market for her paintings, rather than her passion and talent being considered a mere hobby.² Because of this, Woutiers’s oeuvre contains a wide range of subjects, from still lifes and didactic genre paintings (like SAM’s Boys Blowing Bubbles) to history paintings and portraits.

Boys Blowing Bubbles is an example of Woutiers’s lifelike style of portrait-painting, which captures minute details and facial expressions. In this painting, she also addresses a theme that was extremely popular at the time: the transience of youth and prosperity. The floating bubbles in this painting remind us that everything is fleeting—from the youth of the two children depicted here, to the bubbles themselves which will pop at any moment. The candle in the background, too, emphasizes the passage of time, reminding the then-prospering Flanders region that their wealth would not last forever.

Woutiers also painted monumental works, which were then considered to be the strict domain of male artists. She was even connected to the court of Archduke Leopold-Willem in Brussels, who owned one of her masterpieces, Triumph of Bacchus, along with three other works by Woutiers—a testament to her skill. Triumph of Bacchus itself is unique in that it portrays a precise knowledge of human anatomy at a time when women did not typically have access to nude models in their artistic education, as viewing the nude body was seen as inappropriate for women.³ The work is even more unusual due to the fact that the sole female figure is thought to be a self-portrait of Woutiers herself, depicted partially nude among the crowd. As the only figure fixing their gaze confidently outward, her portrayal is truly shocking for a depiction of a seventeenth-century woman in a time when female self-portraits were exceedingly uncommon.4 Clearly, Woutiers was a bold woman for the time in which she lived.

–Julia Hower, Curatorial Intern

Images: Boys Blowing Bubbles, 1640s, Michaelina Wautier, oil on canvas, 35 5/8 x 47 3/4 in., Gift of Mr. Floyd Naramore, 58.140. Triumph of Bacchus, ca. 1655, Michaelina Woutiers, oil on canvas, 295 x 378 cm, Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.
¹ “Michaelina: The Leading Lady of the Baroque,” Museum aan de Stroom, accessed July 12, 2018, https://www.mas.be/nl/michaelina
² “Michaelina: Baroque’s Leading Lady,” Museum aan de Stroom, 2018, https://www.mas.be/sites/mas/files/MAS_Michaelina_gids_EN.pdf
³ Ibid.
4 “Mysterious Michaelina,” Rubensuis, Accessed July 12, 2018, https://www.rubenshuis.be/nl/pagina/mysterieuze-michaelina
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Object of the Week: Some/One

For artist Do Ho Suh, clothing is the “smallest, most intimate habitat that one person can carry. And when you expand that idea, it becomes architecture.”¹ Indeed, Some/One—a monumental armor sculpture made from thousands of military dog tags—embodies the architectural possibilities that Suh sees in clothing.

Answering the question “How much space does one need to be an individual?” Suh explores the relationship between individual and collective, redefining how we might perceive this dichotomy. Some/One in particular is informed by Suh’s experience in the Korean military, which is mandatory service for young men. Unified as one coat of armor, the chain mail-like sculpture is comprised of unique metal tags—each one bearing a sequence of random letters and numbers.² The sculpture somehow manages to defy gravity despite the imagined weight of its 30,000-plus stainless steel tags. Additionally, the piece’s large fanning base serves dual purposes: it supports the sculpture structurally, as well as makes physical and metaphorical space to consider the work’s footprint.

Dog tags are inherently a marker of individualism used to identify soldiers, but they also connect a troop to a larger collective and, ultimately, nation. In the words of the artist, “When you see a person, you don’t just see the person standing in front of you—you see their background, their family or ancestors, the invisible webs of relationship or information.”³ When we see one person’s tag, we see so much more than a name, place of birth, or unit—we see their life.

Further, the reflective surface and mirrored interior of Some/One underscores the artist’s desire for viewers to see themselves—literally and figuratively—in the work. Whether the sculpture serves as a monument honoring fallen troops or highligts the anonymity of their service (or carries other readings altogether) is willfully left open to the viewer. This work is not currently on view but it will be exhibited when the Seattle Asian Art Museum reopens in late 2019.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Some/One, 2001, Do Ho Suh, stainless steel military dog-tags, nickel-plated copper sheets, steel structure, glass fiber reinforced resin, rubber sheets, diameter at base: 24 ft. 4 in.; Height: 81 in., Gift of Barney A. Ebsworth, 2002.43 © Do Ho Suh. Photo: Justin Gollmer.
[1] C. Carr, “In the House with Do-Ho Suh: World of Interiors,” Village Voice, June 23,  2003, http://www.lehmannmaupin.com/artists/do-ho-suh/press/127.
[2] Do Ho Suh, “’Some/One’ and the Korean Military,” interview by Art21, Art21, 2003, https://art21.org/read/do-ho-suh-some-one-and-the-korean-military.
[3] Geoffrey Cruickshank-Hagenbuckle, “Do-Ho Suh ReflectionBrooklyn Rail, March 7, 2008, https://brooklynrail.org/2008/03/artseen/reflection.
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