Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away

The thing that strikes me in the exhibition and Vo’s work is the continuity of his work through in his art career. He is extremely sensitive and able to extract, collect, and select ready-made objects, as well as familiar objects that contain symbolic meanings, representations, and even historical meanings from different places and time periods. Danh Vo's philosophy is not "creating" an object to make art but presenting something already powerful but sometimes hard to noticed or easily ignored without his manipulating.

He makes work by reconstructing, deconstructing, and presenting ready-made objects. In his work, We the People (detail) (2011–16), Vo disassembles a one-to-one replica of the Statue of Liberty, regarded as the symbol of America. The reproduction of the Statue of Liberty is not a ready-made object but does have meaning, as the Statue of Liberty

Some works evoke history museums instead of art museums. For example, A Group of 4 Presidential Signing Pens (2013) simply shows four pen heads that were used to sign a bill that affected the Vietnam war. Evidence of a significant event, it raises a question to the viewer: "The pen heads are here but where are the people who used them?" Vo’s work Two Kennedy Administration Cabinet Room Chairs (2013) shows exactly what the title indicates. These two chairs may have historical value like objects in museums, but Vo collects them and presents them as his own artwork. I think one fascinating thing in the show is that you can stand in front of something that has been through important moments in history. These objects help you visualize and connect back to these moments. Vo's exhibition creates a space in-between a history museum and an art museum asking whether it can be both of them at the same time.  


  1. Walking through the Guggenheim, I definitely had moments where I felt like walking through a history museum. I found it a bit frustrating that the artworks don't exactly speak for themselves- it was almost like reading a historical essay where the texts matter more than the images. I found myself paying greater attention to the wall labels than the found objects that he claimed as art. However it is no doubt that Danh Vo is strategic of what to collect and display. From the first velvet hangings from the Vatican Museum to the last full scale remedies of Statue of Liberty, the exhibition shows a coherent story of himself and his identity in relation to America, to the war and to the museum.

  2. It is true that the context in some of his works are pointing to history and the contents are really strong. And I love the piece with four pen heads you mentioned above. I would regard this piece as an evidence of the Vietnam war than an art piece. Most of his works show both the histories of public and the histories of his family. Although his works require viewers to read a long context. The style of his works is still interesting enough to keep the balance with the concept.