Friday, April 6, 2018

A Slow Climb to Hmm

"Take My Breath Away", the comprehensive solo exhibition of Danh Vo, now up at the Guggenheim is more like a slow climb to comprehension. Without context or exhibition information the show is more like a collection of mishandled artifacts, it’s how Vo infuses his identity that transforms the objects—sometimes even physically—into something conceptual and socially relevant. Vo is not forthcoming with the context of each work either; one must have prior knowledge or be willing to read every placard. An old Rolex, a Dupont lighter and a military ring in a glass box leaves a viewer wanting even if the possessions once belonged to the artist’s father, and are symbols of someone desiring to flaunt their financial success. Such objects of his family’s western assimilation, Christianity, and documents and objects pertaining to the Vietnam War reappear throughout the museum’s rotunda. The Vietnam War pieces carry the most weight and personality. Vo plays the role of a collector, choosing flamboyantly worded correspondence between Henry Kissinger and Leonard Lyons and other historical objects that come off as facetious when presented by Vo. At the top of the ramp one just might be able to connect the contextual dots, but only when one examines the exhibition as a whole.

1 comment:

  1. I think you effectively described the way this show functions as a slow build up of information. I find myself wishing throughout this review that you’d talk about the way one or two of the objects look and how that specifically succeeds or fails for Vo in conveying his message. For example you could talk about the virgin statues and how by cutting them into sections he is visually portraying the idea of colonization and appropriation. You named the objects and concepts, but by describing their form and the way he’s chosen to alter or hang them and connecting them to the concepts might help illustrate your ideas more clearly. I agree with your sentiment though that the entire show is crucial to connecting the dots between Vo’s work.