Do-Ho Suhs new, life-sized Gate, made of silk and video.
  • Do-Ho Suh's new, life-sized Gate, made of silk and video.

Yesterday, the press got to tour Seattle Art Museum's new jewels-of-its-Asian-collection exhibition (opening Thursday), Luminous.*

Smack in the middle of the show—alongside paintings that are 900 years old—is a huge, brand new commission that you walk through by the Korean-born artist Do-Ho Suh.

You know Suh: He's the artist who made the robe out of dog tags that stands in SAM's contemporary gallery (and is the bane of the guards, and one of the great pieces in the contemporary collection). He's also known around the world for his fabric architecture. Once, in a museum in Miami, I found myself wandering through an apartment he'd made of silk. I believe it was the house where he grew up, a memory turned into a shimmery, translucent sculpture.

One of his fabric-architecture pieces, from 2005, is Gate, a full-size rendering in silk of the gate to his parents' house in Seoul. (His father is a classical painter.)

He created Gate in a limited edition of two, and both editions sold. But for the Luminous version of Gate, he used his artist's proof (the copy of a piece that the artist keeps) to create a new installation.

Video taken over a 24-hour period at the actual site in Seoul (his parents' house) is projected onto the silk surfaces in the gallery, making the gate come alive in its original, faraway context, then fade back into its ghostly present self when the video of sun and trees and house-exterior disappears again.

In addition to the footage taken at the Suh house, the artist also included in his video projection animation that's drawn from works in SAM's Asian collection (like the endearingly lovely deer scroll, and the swarming crow screen).

The effect is to weave together where the art comes from and where it ends up, to collapse the distance between the origin of an artwork and its exhibition. That has to be the dream of so many artists.

1. *Automated voice: I'm sorry, but your quota on the adjective "luminous" has already been met.