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By Do Ho Suh

AKG - Official Website

Do Ho Suh
Korean, born 1962
Primarily bronze, edition 1/3
Karma, 2010, a twenty-three-foot-high, monumental bronze sculpture, appears at first to be a graceful curvature, rising up in a trajectory that defies normal structural integrity.

Closer inspection of the work reveals that is it composed of a striding human figure that carries on his shoulders a series of crouching figures, perched one on top the other. Each figure holds his hands over the eyes of the figure beneath him, as if to show that humanity's reliance on its fellow man is not only essential—we all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us—but a complete and terrifying leap of faith.

This leap of faith is especially evident in the dangerous degree to which this chain of humanity is stretching into a gravity-defying arch.

These linked forms essentially reflect the intertwining of our lives and the karmic truth of connection. Suh may not directly or explicitly insert the philosophical traditions of Buddhism into his work, but he did grow up in South Korea, where Buddhism is one of the many Eastern philosophical traditions embedded in everyday life. In fact, Karma can be seen as a visual representation of how each of our lives and past experiences are not autonomous, but are built up, one upon the other.

- Albright-Knox Art Gallery (online Nov. 2014)
The process of designing, creating, and installing this work on the Albright-Knox’s campus involved detailed planning.

The figures are based on computer-generated three-dimensional drawings created by the artist. Measuring twenty-three feet tall and weighing 1,300 pounds, the freestanding sculpture is anchored only at the base and arcs slightly.

The two largest figures at the base of the sculpture are made of stainless steel with copper plate, while the other figures are composed entirely of bronze.

- Albright-Knox Art Gallery (online Nov. 2014)
The base of Do Ho Suh’s Karma is a strong, standing figure. On his shoulders crouches the first in a series of identical figures, each slightly smaller than the one below. The figures rise twenty-three feet in the air and curve back in an impressive defiance of gravity.

On one level, the title and composition reflect the traditional Buddhist and Hindu notion of karma, which holds that the consequences of a person’s actions in this life will affect his or her experience in the next one. On another level, the sculpture might evoke generations—of humanity overall, or of individual families—and how we are all the product of our forbears, even if memories of them are as distant as the tiny figures at the top of the arc.

 The work also suggests the idea of connection and how we depend on one another for community and survival. Each figure covers the eyes of the one below, which may refer to the importance of trust- if only one figure were to move, the entire structure would come tumbling down.

- Albright-Knox Art Gallery (online Nov. 2014)

July 2023 photo

Nov. 2014 Photos


Photos and their arrangement © 2014, 2023 Chuck LaChiusa
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