Image: Sook Jin Jo, My Brother's Keeper, found wood and toys /  ©Sook Jin Jo    ©Black & White Gallery/Project Space

Image: Sook Jin Jo, My Brother's Keeper, found wood and toys / ©Sook Jin Jo  ©Black & White Gallery/Project Space


Korea-born, New York-based artist Sook Jin Jo turns the brute material of found wood into spaces that invite meditation in her site-specific work, but her installation in Black & White's outdoor gallery ended up taking an unusually personal turn. "It's so unusual for a gallery to have a ceiling open to the sky, and I was originally thinking about winter and how to approach the season," she said. "But I also wanted to make a work for my brother, who was in the hospital, and then, two weeks before the show opened, he passed away." The artist often takes an intuitive and spontaneous approach to her site-specific work, tailoring nests of branches, banisters, salvaged molding, and other found wood to specific locations in situ. But her practice also has a thoroughly planned painterly side. She stains each of the elements that comprise a piece in natural shades, giving the entire work a coherent palette. With My Brother's Keeper she added another dimension to the work, incorporating objects such as a wooden horse, a rusty roller-skate, a small bed, and other found materials resting or hanging among the wooden pieces. Added on a whim, the artist included the objects to evoke the mysteries childhood and her brother's family in a landscape that resembled an enchanted forest. "I make work to recreate experiences that I've had for other people," she said. "There were many pathways that you could wander through in My Brother's Keeper, and I wanted people to feel their way through the space, both physically and emotionally." Transforming the Brooklyn backyard into a silent forest in the dead of winter, the installation succeeded in creating a space for contemplation and a moving memento mori.