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.