Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return

Dinh Q. Lê
Video still, The Imaginary Country, 2006
Four-channel video installation with sound
Dimensions variable Running time: 16 minutes, 4 seconds
© Dinh Q. Lê. Courtesy of the artist and Shoshana Wayne Gallery

Dinh Q. Lê 
Untitled, from the series “Tapestry,” 2006 
Chromogenic print and linen tape 
53 × 53 inches 
Courtesy of UBS Art Collection 

Dinh Q. Lê
Crossing the Farther Shore, 2014
Found photographs, thread, and linen tape
Seven parts, dimensions variable
Photo by Nash Baker.

Dinh Q. Lê
Untitled (detail) from the series "Tapestry," 2006
Chromogenic print and linen tape
47 × 47 inches
Courtesy of UBS Art Collection

Friday, September 14, 2018Sunday, April 7, 2019

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.


City of San José Supported, in part by a Cultural Affairs grant from the City of San José. Henry Luce Foundation NEA
Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return is made possible in part by grant support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Asian Cultural Council, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation.

The exhibition is sponsored by The Lipman Family Foundation, the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, Tad Freese and Brook Hartzell, Lucia Cha and Dr. Jerrold Hiura, and Evelyn and Rick Neely. Additional support comes from Lisa and Keith Lubliner. In-kind support for equipment is provided by Genelec, NEC Display Solutions, and BrightSign.