Friday, February 20, 2009

Tufts University Art Gallery: Dinh Q Lê and Christian Tomaszewski

Two new exhibitions at the Tufts Art Gallery debuted at the end of January. Exciting!

The main one, housed in the Tish Gallery (top floor), is titled A Tapestry of Memories: The Art of Dinh Q Lê, a survey of the Vietnamese-American artist's work. He and his family were forced to leave Vietnam when he was young, subsequently living in Thailand and the US. He has since moved back there, and much of his work examines the relationship between America and Vietnam and their images of one another.

Much of average Americans' knowledge of Vietnam of course relates to the Vietnam War, and much of that information comes from films and books relating to the event. Lê uses a lot of imagery from Apocalypse Now and Platoon to illustrate this point. In the video installation From Father to Son: A Rite of Passage, two screens positioned next to each other show footage from these films, one highlighting Martin Sheen and the other his son, Charlie Sheen.

The accompanying photo tapestries involve weaving images of films and the actual war. These tapestries are the main event of the exhibit, popping up in both rooms and incorporating multiple subjects.

Many focus on the Vietnam War, while others blend Eastern and Western religious iconography.

These works are really exceptionally pieced together. One must shift his or her eyes in different ways to see each layer. At first it can seem like a semi-abstracted mess but upon closer inspection each section comes together across multiple levels to form a complex and intriguing image. Unfortunately I couldn't get any decent photographs, but I feel it's impossible to see their full effect without being physically there, anyway.

The exhibit also showcases two embroidered canvases, a very subtle technique with figural subjects. Again, these definitely benefit from being seen in real life.

The largest piece is a "quilt" compiled from photographs that hangs from the ceiling. It is Lê's attempt to reconstruct the lost history of his own family by meshing together found postcards and photos of anonymous Vietnamese families.

As much as I enjoyed Lê's work, Christian Tomaszewski: Hunting For Pheasants

In the sculpture court are hung bold spheric lights.

The floor-to-ceiling windows are painted with thick piebald stripes, transforming the room when sunshine floods in. It is very pretty. (Images from Quabit's Flickr.)

Inside, the space has been transformed into a knee-level maze. The stripes continue all around the walls, serving as backgrounds to his imaginative portraits of people, real and imaginary, who have been assassinated, often with political motivations.

He incorporates techniques of silkscreening, collage, painting, and drawing to create eye-catching pieces resembling movie posters.

Neon lights and blocks of text pop up here and there, as well. They're all housed in the same-small-sized white frames but the images vary in measurements. I could lose myself in this room, easily, trying to piece together the stories Tomaszewski is trying to tell as a part of his wacky pop labyrinth.

The Tufts University Art Gallery is open every day except Monday from 10-5, and until 8 on Thursdays. It's free (but please donate!) and the people who work there are super nice! Both of these exhibits will be open until March 29, 2009.

Further Reading:
Boston Phoenix
Tufts Daily

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