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"Bright" Stars

The MFAH hosts a masterfully curated show of works by 12 Korean artists.

Do Ho Suh's epic — and I do mean epic — work, Fallen Star 1/5 (2008-9), is the dramatic standout of the show. For the approximately 11-foot-high-by-25-foot-long sculpture, the artist obsessively re-created, at one-fifth scale, the Providence, Rhode Island, apartment building he lived in as a student. The dollhouse-like structure is cut in half and split open so you can see all the little rooms of the various tenants. It is amazing. Every detail of the apartments is exactly re-created, and you can conjure up the kind of people that live in each space by the telling choices of their possessions. Skate-punk apartments vie with abodes packed with reproduction early American decor. One apartment bedroom features a dead-on replica of a $299 Ikea double bed frame. Closets are packed with detailed clothes and cut in half, as are ovens baking turkeys, their stuffing revealed. It looks like it was crazy-making, but a blast to create.

There had to be an air of the exotic to the building for Suh when he arrived from Korea as a student. One can imagine the reverse situation, studying the homes and possessions of Korean neighbors for clues to their lives and identities. A literal "culture clash" occurs on the left half of one space, where a traditional Korean house, the kind Suh grew up in, has crashed/parachuted into the corner of the apartment building, spewing debris into the rooms. The parachute itself is a lovely, ethereal, fabric version of the Korean house, but it seems a little redundant. No matter; Fallen Star is an engrossing, showstopper work.

But even if you don't mind museum-imposed boundaries, here they are really frustrating. You are barred from getting up close and really inspecting all the incredible detail — the books in the bookshelves, the tiny halved carton of orange juice. It seems a shame not to be able to appreciate all that hard work. I wanted to bring a ladder to better inspect the building's third floor. Binoculars or opera glasses might be a good idea.

Amazing: Fallen Star by Do Ho Suh.
Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Amazing: Fallen Star by Do Ho Suh.

Details

Through February 14.
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 1001 Bissonnet, 713-639-7300.

There are dozens more great works in the show, some discreetly beautiful, like Koo Jeong-A's almost microscopic mountain landscape created from powdered stone, and some large-scale and dynamic, like collaborative duo Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries' dueling flash animations. It's a show where you can spend a lot of time, but it doesn't feel like a lot of time. Go see it.

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