Space Oddity: Thomas Vu

11 September - 21 December 2019
Overview

“Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on

Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God's love be with you”

 

‘Space Oddity’ - David Bowie, 1972

Space Oddity addresses Vu’s experiences and concerns of spaces in times past, present and future. The works are driven by curiosity and seeks to establish a post-human narrative starting with the year 1969: the year of the Moon landing and mankind’s journey to the next frontier – Space. The same technology responsible for breaching that frontier, in recent time, has led to a divide of society. There is an undeniable correlation between political instability and the rise of right-wing populism worldwide, and technology. Moreover, Futurist Raymond Kurzweil’s prediction of technological singularity is set around 2045, at which point Artificial Intelligence will have surpassed human intelligence. These three intervals in time, 69/19/45 form the focal point of the works.

 

Carefully constructed metal canvases plastered with silkscreened imagery of idiosyncratic geometry encapsulated by plexiglass and site-specific installations mirror the dichotomy of the natural world and the synthetic both in terms of material and the perceived visual sensation of the viewer.

 

The inspiration and presentation of his works derive primarily from personal memories of growing up in Vietnam during the US conflict. What is more, the atrocities of the events of 9/11 have affected Vu on a personal level. His works depict the epic conflict between man and machine, nature and technology which he believes is the decisive tension in our modern era. On the anniversary of 9/11 and 50 years, since man set foot on the moon, Space Oddity gives testimony to the state of the world at present and provides a cautionary vision of that which is to come.

 

Tomas Vu was born in Saigon, Vietnam and at the age of ten moved with his family to El Paso, Texas. Vu received a BFA from the University of Texas, El Paso, and went on to earn an MFA from Yale University. He has been a professor at Columbia University School of the Arts since 1996 and was appointed the LeRoy Neiman Professor of Visual Arts in 2000. In 1996, Vu helped found the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies. Since its inception, he has served as Director/Artistic Director of the Neiman center.

 

Vu has exhibited nationally and internationally and has had solo museum shows in Japan, Italy, China, and Vietnam. He has had solo exhibitions at Milwaukee Institute for Art and Design (1998), Museum Haus Kusaya, Yokuska (2001), Centro Colombo Americano, Bogotá (2012) and the China Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing (2015). In collaboration with Rirkrit Tiravanija as part of their series Green Go Home, Vu received a solo exhibition at Vargas Museum, Manila, in 2017. Alongside Rirkrit Tiravanija, Vu gave a performance during Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society Has the Capacity to Destroy: Mare Nostrum at the Venice Biennale 2019. Vu is also the curator of the traveling group exhibition DRAW, which was inspired by the drawings of LeRoy Neiman and has since included over 100 artists. DRAW has had iterations in China, Serbia, and the US, and is headed to Berlin, North Carolina, and Cuba next.

 

Vu has received many awards including the Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship award (2001), Guggenheim Fellowship (2002), Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program (2015), Residency and Audience Award for Best Artist at the 30th Biennial of Graphic Arts Ljubljana (2016), the Louis Comfort Tiffany Artist Award (2017), and the Arts/Industry Residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center (2018). He lives and works in New York City.

Installation Views