10 Chancery Lane Gallery has the great honour of presenting artworks by Dinh Q. Lê. Lê weaves his works as one would weave a traditional grass matt in Vietnam, however the strips are photographs and the result is several layers of imagery that play tricks on the eye and at once stir emotions of happiness and sorrow like a beautiful colorful dream that changes into the nightmarish pictures of the Vietnam war. The images play a sort of hide and seek on the patterns and the viewer needs time before the intricate composition of imagery on the basket-woven pattern can be fully appreciated. The success of his works is that it leaves the viewer in a state of searching the cinematic montage coming in and out of the images that fade into one another. Lê’s unique woven-photographs have been highlighted by Francesco Bonami, curator of the 50th Venice Biennale, who dedicated an entire room to Lê’s works in the Italian Pavillion in 2003.
The theme of Lê’s works deal with his real and imagined memory of the Vietnam war. He was ten when his parents fled Vietnam in 1979. His family arrived in America and he grew up in a world of films about the Vietnam war, precisely the year that Apocolypse Now was released. He says that sometimes when he hears a helicopter he thinks about the war in Vietnam, however, he then realizes that he never experienced any helicopters during the war thus this memory is imposed on him by films about the war. When viewing his works there is no doubt about the deep feelings he has through what he did experience as his lifes’ works weave together all these collective memories and anxieties. One of his strongest works in this show contains four figures: the cowgirl-costumed playboy bunny tuting a toy pistol from Apocolypse Now intertwined with South Vietnamese General Nguyen Ngoc Loan and Viet Cong suspect Bay Lop; whose execution was captured in Eddie Adam’s shocking photograph; and two beautiful women take the place of Bay Lop in front of General Loan’s gun one being an anonymousblack and white photo of a woman from the 1960’s woven into the leading actress in the Graham Greene film, The Quiet American. The initial beauty of the photo grabs the viewer immediately until quietly and slowly the image of General Loan appears.
Dinh Q. Lê was born in 1968 in Ha Tien, a Vietnamese town near the Cambodia border. Soon after the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1978, the Lê family immigrated to Los Angeles. After receiving a BFA from University of California in Santa Barbara, Lê began his first photo-weavings using a traditional technique he learned from his aunt. He continued, after earning his MFA from The School of Visual Art in New York, to develop art works that include installation, sculpture, video and urban intervention. Lê spends half the year in Vietnam where he produces much of his work, and the other half in Los Angeles.
Dinh Q. Lê’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY, the Houston Center for Photography, and the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies in an exhibition titled The Headless Buddha, which traveled to Portland, OR; Cambridge, MA; and Santa Cruz, CA. Recently, he was included in Beyond Boundaries: Contemporary Photography in California, an exhibition which travelled to California State University, Long Beach, CA and to the Friends of Photography in San Francisco, CA. This show follows his exhibition at the UC Santa Barbara Museum last Spring. He has received several awards and grants, including a Gunk Foundation Public Project Grant, 1998; an NEA Fellowship in Photography, 1994; The Dupont Fellowship, 1994; and The Aaron Siskind Fellowship, 1992
The Museum of Modern Art (New York) and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art have recently acquired Lê’s works. The Asia Society in New York has invited Lê to participate in a one-man show in 2005. A full color catalogue, with essays and an interview, is currently available.