Young Suk Suh

Photo of artworkPhoto of artworkPhoto of artwork


Let Burn

  • October 17 - December 16, 2011
  • Reception: Thursday, October 27 at 5:30 p.m.
  • Artist Talk at 6:00 p.m.
  • Hours: Monday - Saturday 12 to 4 p.m. Thursday 6 to 9 p.m. Phone: (209) 667-3186
  • Email:
  • The exhibition is free, open to the public, and wheelchair accessible.

Youngsuk Suh, born in 1970 in Korea, moved to California to teach at UC Davis in 2006, after getting his MFA from the Museum of Fine Arts Studio School in Boston in 2001. Starting with the summer of 2008, Young (as he is known) began to chase fires in Northern California wilderness areas, and soon spread his travels around the West. The results are two bodies of work, which make up this exhibition at California State University, Stanislaus. The first set of images combines enormous drifts of smoke that part like theatrical curtains to reveal mundane human or animal activity. The effect is the most profound kind of humor, that which reveals our foibles not with contempt but with bemusement, and in the shadow of the sublime: beauty and death. The second, most recent suite is denser, as though the artist has chosen to move from the periphery into the center of his subject. Almost the entire image is churning smoke; with close attention the viewer can make out a branch here, a stump there. It’s a metaphor for being lost, completely unable to find one’s emotional bearings, with only occasional half-recognized signposts by which to keep from panicking, to keep a grip on one’s sanity.

The irony is that these images are made of controlled burns, manufactured fires, for forest management or agricultural purposes, on set schedules. The images feign danger but are in fact theatrical devices. Like David Lynch’s “man-made chicken” in Eraserhead, the terror is in the banality, the Frankenstein dumbness of the man-made conflagration.