In this era of COVID-19, time appears to be standing still or ticking in slow motion. With everyone waiting for things to reopen, there seems to be a blurring of past, present and future. What was it like before this crisis? What will it be like thereafter? Will it ever be the same…and do we even want it to be?
Despite valiant efforts by artists, galleries and museums to keep us engaged virtually during this period of isolation, there’s nothing like stepping into an art filled space to soak up a much needed dose of real life creative energy. For art enthusiasts eager to get back into museums and galleries, there is light at the end of the dark tunnel.
A few art spaces are beginning to open their doors, and even though international art travel will no doubt be limited for some time to come, it is heartening to see embers of life beginning to glow again. One such real world place is Galerie Quynh in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. On Thursday, May 28, 2020, Galerie Quynh opens “Lunar Breccia,” a group exhibition featuring new and previously unseen works by Hoang Duong Cam, Sandrine Llouquet, Keen Souhlal, Vo Tran Chau, Do Thanh Lang, Hoang Nam Viet and Nghia Dang.
This is a noteworthy opening, not only for its timing, but also for the gallery’s contextualization of space and time itself. Bringing together fragments of Vietnam’s vibrant contemporary art scene, Galerie Quynh – as the title “Lunar Breccia” suggests – fuses together a collection of unique and extraordinary works like a “motley of angular rocks floating in suspension” before the artists continue on their individual orbital paths towards meteoric rise or oblivion. “In the shift away from linear timelines towards explorations of non-chronology, the exhibition and its artworks offer entry to heterotopia – a space that concurrently exists in time yet outside of time, both mirroring yet upsetting what occurs beyond its boundaries,” Quynh says. It’s a perfect metaphor for our current moment where artists and society at large are yearning to break free.
If past informs the present, gallery owner Quynh Pham brings together the best contemporary artists Vietnam has to offer, setting Galerie Quynh apart from the many tourist galleries with their ubiquitous lacquer paintings, portraits of monks and local landscapes, as beautiful as they are. Quynh returned to Vietnam from San Diego, California in 1997 where she was raised and studied art history and criticism, opening Galerie Quynh in 2003, an acclaimed contemporary art space in Saigon’s historic Dakao district, and a frequent participant in international art fairs. Her story was featured in a PBS News Hour segment in 2016 about the evolving new economy in Vietnam (see video below). She has been an active part of Vietnam’s cultural scene, which has benefitted from that economic development, spearheading non-profit and educational initiatives.
As we move beyond the COVID-19 crisis, only time will tell how much of our previous lives and experiences will return to their old trajectories. We can only hope that the creative leadership exemplified by Quynh endures, and that the artists Quynh supports break through to a future of their own making.
As a purveyor of contemporary art, Project Art Lounge often highlights emergent artists of our time, with a focus on art that goes beyond the literal to a more abstract or conceptual narrative. Occasionally, however, we happen upon a museum or gallery with a more traditional focus that captures our interest. Sometimes it’s the juxtaposition of established and emerging artists, which calls us to attention. Such was the case during a Labor Day visit to the Dennos Museum Center at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City, Michigan.
Large scale works by contemporary Korean artist, Lee Sung Keun, were presented together with a smaller retrospective of works by master painter Armand Merizon, Michigan’s own “painter’s painter.”
Lee’s exhibition entitled “Interconnected” filled the main gallery with suspended structures of organic forms and color, some mounted on the walls and others hanging from the ceilings, casting shadows as integral to the visual experience as the artworks themselves. According to the museum’s literature, “building a bridge between man and nature, Lee’s work is a perfect illustration of the concept of vital energy (Qi), which is omnipresent in the artistic culture of Eastern Asia.” The exhibition, which originated at the Waterfall Mansion and Gallery in New York City, is on display at the Dennos Museum from June 9, 2019 through September 22, 2019.
Whether by intention or happenstance, Dennos curators juxtaposed a retrospective of Armand Merizon’s work directly adjacent to Lee’s “Interconnected” – creating an interesting interplay with Merizon’s nature filled landscapes and evocative portraits of man living in and shaping the natural world of Michigan’s farms and small towns. The exhibition “ARMAND MERIZON: HIS LIFE AND ART” pulls together a diverse cross section of paintings by the Michigan painter and teacher, who died in 2010. Influenced by Dutch masters and contemporary artists alike, the Merizon exhibition includes both classical rural landscapes, nostalgic period pieces and abstract compositions with the color and vibe that seemingly harness the energy of Lee’s neighboring exhibition.
For a museum located far from the bustling art scenes of New York and Seoul, it was a welcome and unexpected delight to see these two exhibitions of local and international acclaim together. Whether it is the vivid energy that each of these artists embody or the “symbiotic unity” that both exhibitions claim for themselves and with each other, the Dennos Museum presents a well of creative energy and “Qi” in the otherwise placid surrounds of Northwestern Michigan.
More than 50 years after the The Beatles double album debuted, artist Rutherford Chang is keeping the White Hype alive with his show “We Buy White Albums”. Chang’s collection of 2,295 copies of the “White Album” will be part of Hyper! A Journey into Art and Music at the Deichtorhallen from March 1 – August 4. If you are in Germany, it’s worth a visit.
That’s 927 more albums than when we last checked in with him in 2017 in Tokyo. If you’d like to listen to his remix and help him grow his collection to over 1000, archiving your copy of the White Album through Chang’s artwork, visit the show or contact him through his instagram page.
Watergate, Irangate, Pizzagate. Political scandals and conspiracies abound with disturbing frequency of late and they often become legendary beyond the history books. Their intrusion into art, music and theater drags these plots through the filter of creative criticism and thrusts them back again into mainstream pop-culture in the form of t-shirts and viral memes. In the end, the result can serve to accentuate or obfuscate the underlying truths. The outcomes can help us learn and move past scandal or they can be a painful reminder of our failure to deal with them in the first place.
In the exhibition “Everything is Connected: Art and Conspiracy,” The Met Breuer delivers a wide-ranging review of scandal inspired artworks from 1969-2016, an intriguing “archaeology of our troubled times.” Thirty artists present their own unique fact finding missions through photography, paintings, drawings and videos. Whether through Jenny Holzer’s infamous symbolic narrative, Hans Haacke’s weaponization of alternative facts or the truth telling of the Black Panthers Minister of Culture, Emory Douglas, these artists show their disdain for the public corporatist propaganda machine and demonstrate their ability to battle corruption, bureaucracy, and the media with a touch of their own medicine.
Particularly compelling are the works of Trevor Paglen, whose mid-career survey last year at the National Portrait Gallery was an incredible show of force, shining a bright light on government secrecy within the hallowed halls of the very public institution dedicated to revering the Presidents and most powerful of lawmakers.
A lasting legacy of this exhibition, and perhaps its most urgent call to action, is that truth is not always self-evident. To move beyond scandal and conspiracy, we must look squarely at the competing visions of the past and future and attempt to learn from them in the present. If we do not, our museums, galleries and pop-culture will be filled with red M.A.G.A hats, yellow shocks of hair and “fake news” conspiracies for years to come – a scandalous prospect to say the least.
Michele Schuff’s highly anticipated new show opens on February 2nd at Sandler Hudson Gallery in Atlanta. To explore Michele’s work is to discover a deep and indecipherable sensitivity masked by layers of wax and pigment. Indeed she may only have scratched the surface of her immense talent in a show that promises to take us to a new galaxy “On The Edge of Forever.” Having had a sneak peek inside her studio a few months ago, I am intensely curious to peer through the polished lens of Michele’s telescope. Knowing her work, I don’t expect to unearth any dark abyss, but a world full of light and wonder and awe. Her show runs through March 17th at 1000 Marietta Street NW, Atlanta, GA 30318.