The largest solo exhibition in the United States in more than a decade of the work of internationally-renowned artist Dinh Q. Lê, this exhibition of five major video and photography installations entwines rarely heard narratives of war and migration from people in North Vietnam, the Vietnamese diaspora, and refugees who, like Lê, have returned to live in their home country. Assembling these obscure stories through the collection of found photographs, artists’ war sketches, and oral histories, Lê presents a multifaceted story about Vietnamese life before, during, and after the Vietnam War. In the process, he questions the viability of collective memory and reveals the effects of trauma on the cultural imagination.
While Lê is best known for his unique photo weavings—interlaced vertical and horizontal strips of documentary photographs and Hollywood films stills about the Vietnam War—this exhibition highlights his ongoing experimentations in video and photography installation. He explores themes of departure and return, the role of the artist during times of war, and reimagining symbols of American imperialism and recent histories of Vietnam through documentary videos and multichannel cinematic presentations, delicate watercolors and abstract paintings made by his artist/subjects, and architectural structures that comprise thousands of photographs abandoned by families fleeing from the ravages of war. Engaged with other Vietnamese voices and perspectives, Lê reshapes and generates new memories and images of the conflict by giving voice literally and metaphorically to those marginalized by history.
The exhibition also includes a selection of rarely seen images of flowers photographed by Lê in Saigon’s flower market. Abstracted through the artist’s signature photo weaving technique, these beautiful yet elegiac floral compositions memorialize lives lost to war and violence in Vietnam while symbolizing a promising and bountiful future for the country.
Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return is the fourth exhibition in SJMA’s ongoing series New Stories from the Edge of Asia, which features work by artists from Pacific Rim countries and cultures who push the boundaries of narrative in contemporary art.
Published by SJMA, the fully illustrated exhibition catalogue includes documentation of the exhibition; a transcribed conversation between Dinh Q. Lê and Moira Roth, Trefethen Professor Emerita of Art History, Mills College, Oakland; and essays by Rory Padeken, SJMA associate curator and curator of the exhibition; Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, associate professor of Asian American Studies, University of California, Davis; and Nora A. Taylor, Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Available for purchase at the Museum Store.
Born in 1968 in Hà Tiên, Vietnam, Dinh Q. Lê and his family immigrated to the US in 1979. He received his BA in studio art from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1989 and MFA in photography and related media from The School of Visual Arts, New York, in 1992. He currently lives and works in Vietnam. Recent awards include a Rauschenberg Residency, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York (2016); Bellagio Creative Arts Fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation, New York (2014); Visual Art Laureate, Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2010); and Artist-in-Residence, Tokyo Wonder Site Aoyama (2009). He has had solo exhibitions at such venues as Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2015); Rice Gallery, Houston (2014); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010); Bellevue Arts Museum Washington (2007); Asia Society, New York (2005); and The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky (2000). His work is in the collections of Asia Society, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and San José Museum of Art.
PressWhat's up in SF museums and galleries this fall, San Francisco Chronicle (SFGate)
August 22, 2018
SF Bay Area fall arts 2018, The Mercury News
August 26, 2018
Photographic Memory, Modern Luxury Silicon Valley
September 13, 2018
Artist Dinh Q. Lê “Returns” to California for His Largest Exhibition in a Decade, SFGate
September 7, 2018
Dinh Q. Lê's Beautiful Diaspora, Metro Silicon Valley (Metroactive)
September 26, 2018
Memories Shape a Possible Future in Dinh Q. Lê's 'True Journey is Return', KQED Arts
September 26, 2018
True Journey is Return in Review by Miranda Caravalho, ArtsEarth
October 3, 2018
(un)making Episode 34: Dinh Q. Lê, Art Practical
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Dinh Q. Lê @ San Jose Museum of Art, Squarecylinder
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Best of 2018, Squarecylinder
December 22, 2018
Dinh Q. Lê: Confronting Collective Memory, Photograph Magazine
Dinh Q. Lê at San José Museum of Art, California, ARTNEWS
February 5, 2019
Dinh Q. Lê and the Art of Weaving Memory, KQED Arts
February 16, 2019
Visit an Exhibit: Bay Area Museums Offer Compelling Shows, SF/ARTS
February 18, 2019
Now Playing! Southeast Asian Film Asserts Itself in San Jose and Beyond, KQED Arts
March 18, 2019