Another review of art from the month that has past. In mid-February, I attended an artist talk with Truong Tran, part of a month-long exhibition of his work at Mina Dresden Gallery. The exhibition was presented by our friends at Kearny Street Workshop.
The gallery itself is a narrow and starkly white space. Upon entry, one is drawn first to the illuminated shapes and color fields that dot the walls. Moving closer to a particular artwork, one begins to see the meticulous detail and the variety of elements from which it is composed.
[Truong Tran. Installation view. Photo courtesy of the artist. (Click to enlarge.)]
As suggested by the title of exhibition the lost & found, the pieces are created primarily from found objects and materials. Tran is a self-described collector, indeed he admit, “I was a collector long before I was an artist.” This brought to mind the artist in residence program at the SF dump that I reviewed back in January. Far from a simple presentation of found objects, he constructs large-scale works from these constituent parts, placing them into boxes and the combining these boxes into larger structures. This process of found objects, containment and construction is perhaps most apparent in tower, the largest piece in the show:
[Truong Tran, tower. Photo courtesy of the artist. (Click to enlarge.)]
Tran cites Joseph Cornell and Donald Judd as influences, and one can see the combination of “things contained in boxes” and large minimal geometric elements reappearing in many of the works. There is also a certain polished quality to many of pieces, particularly the illuminated works that most caught my attention. For example, the piece broken and whole, shown below looks to be a very minimalist installation with lights, rectangles and solid colors. On closer inspection, one can see that each box contains bones, presumably part of a “collection.”
[Truong Tran, broken and whole. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)]
The use of found materials within a larger minimal pattern of boxes and solid colors appears in many of the works. The contained materials at times are provocative, such as the syringes that are placed in each box of a ladder to.
Tran is as established writer and author of several collections of poetry and a children’s book. With this exhibition, he is moving into a new medium of visual art and sculpture. However, his poetry is also very visual, as in his book within the margin where a single line of lower-case text is presented on each page. His other books published at Apogee Press have a similar visual quality to them. You can see some excerpts from a couple of the books here. Similarly, text enters into many of the visual pieces in the exhibition, such as the large letter “A” in tower. In both his written and visual works, there is a strong sense of things being “constructed”, and indeed he emphasized the concept of construction during his talk at the gallery.
One work that did not get mentioned during the talk but which drew my attention the invisible city. Once again, found materials (in this case, multicolored golf tees and thread) were arranged into a repeated rectangular pattern, but this time set against an image of a city skyline. While many of the pieces have an architectural quality to them (i.e., as “constructions”), this was only one where the image contained within was itself architectural.
[Truong Tran, invisible city. Photo courtesy of the artist. (click to enlarge)]
However, there is another level of containment, as each of the buildings contains a pornographic image – I believe they are all images of men. This is another recurring theme in many of the pieces, perhaps best exemplified via boy with butterflies which at a distance appears to be a flock of hundreds of colored butterflies frozen in mid motion. Upon closer inspection, one sees that the butterflies are cut from pornographic magazines, and it is the sections of the male bodies in these images that give the butterflies their colors and patterns.