SOLOMON R. GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM /
NEW YORK
 
Danh Võ
 
 
Danh Võ will be the subject of a retrospective at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York in 2018, to which the Pinault Collection will contribute five works by the artist. Võ’s work was previously presented at Punta della Dogana in 2015 in the exhibition "Slip of the Tongue," conceived by the artist himself. Prior to that, it was shown in the exhibition "Chung Ga Opla" (FRIED Eggs), curated by Alessandro Rabottini at the Villa Medici that houses the French Academy in Rome.

Text
Alessandro Rabottini
Art critic,<br/>curator of the Danh Võ’s show at Villa Medici in 2013




<span class="alinea"></span>Objects travel through space and time, crossing oceans and centuries, and changing as they do; they rarely stay intact. The fragments that survive are sometimes transplanted to new settings, like a foreign plant invading the local vegetation. As they do, they shed a part of their integrity, their purity is compromised, as they adapt to a new context, learn a new language, and generate new idioms. All the while they maintain their transformative energy, a result of the violence with which they were yanked from their original settings and which makes them, in turn, potentially incisive and fecund. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>In his work artist Danh Võ explores these liminal spaces and reclaims a multitude of historic moments, distant from one another, as though composing a bouquet of noble flowers and branches, wild flowers and weeds. In doing so, his work undermines origin myths, along with the ideological implications of those very myths. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>By crafting a sly poetry of the fragment, of contamination, Võ seeks out symbols and figures, often opaque and unyielding, that bear the scars of their dislocation: objects that were pillaged during wars, that survived a perilous sea crossing, that were plundered, that had to impose themselves through sheer strength, or objects whose use on the contrary became established over time. All these objects of various natures are temporarily recomposed in Võ’s modest installations and unstable sculptures, always admitting to their violent decomposition; the debris that he has temporarily assimilated continue to seem as though they might return at any moment to the ocean of events from whence they came. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>At the 55<sup>th</sup> International Venice Biennale, in 2013, Võ created a landscape of temporary fractures and spatial dislocations, presenting a group of works that, while each are different, together question the value of religion as a space for conquest and negotiation, adding and subtracting value. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span><i>Beauty Queen</i> (2013) is composed of the remains of a wooden statue depicting Christ on the cross, its severed, almost unrecognizable trunk placed in an antique wooden milk crate. This once revered effigy, now clumsily amputated, is placed on the ground, as though forcibly encased in a small, improvised wooden casket. Presented alongside it is <i>Christmas, Rome 2012</i> (2013), a work that combines the wooden frame of a Catholic church brought over from Vietnam and partially rebuilt, with curtains in the collection of the Vatican museum; worn and bleached by the sun, they retain the outline of the frames that were once hung on them. Võ stages a surreal cycle of worship, gradual disappearance, and cyclical restitution. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>The act of severing seems to be particularly important to the artist, as seen in <i>Ο Θεόςμαύρο</i> (2013), a work presented in the Danish pavilion of the 2015 Venice Biennale, when Võ represented his adoptive country. The top half of a wooden sculpture of the Virgin Mary from the fourteenth century, worn by the years and the worms, is placed atop a fragment of a Greek sarcophagus. This can be interpreted as a literal depiction of Latin civilization taking over and supplanting the Greek; it is also a warning about the longevity of civilizations, a <i>memento mori</i> reminding the viewer of the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all worldly goods and pursuits. Võ takes advantage here of the Surrealist strategy of assemblage to undermine two supposed emblems of eternity. <br><br> <span class="alinea"></span>In <i>Log Dog</i> (2013), Võ combines fragments of Catholic iconography with cut branches, such that it is difficult to distinguish the religious from the natural debris. In <i>Gustav’s Wing</i> (2013), the artist relies on the human form, that of his cousin Gustav: fragments of a life-size bronze cast of Gustav’s body at age eleven years are dispersed across the room. It is one of the artist’s works in which the experience of dislocation moves from the cultural and historical level to a more personal one—insofar as it is possible to separate those dimensions of existence—and in which the image of dismemberment, and the resulting trauma, becomes vital, a clear example of a freedom able to colonize space, the future, and our entire imagination.
<!-- à utiliser aussi pour la photo 01 --> Danh VÕ <br><i>Gustav’s Wing</i>, 2013 <br>6 bronze casting elements, 10 metal chains <br>Variable dimensions <br>Exhibition view, « Slip of The Tongue », <br>Punta della Dogana, 2015
 
<!-- à utiliser aussi pour la photo 01 --> Danh VÕ <br><i>Gustav’s Wing</i>, 2013 <br>6 bronze casting elements, 10 metal chains <br>Variable dimensions <br>Exhibition view, « Slip of The Tongue », <br>Punta della Dogana, 2015
Danh VÕ <br><i>Log Dog</i>, 2013 <br>Wood, iron, chains, <br>and hooks <br>Variable dimensions
 
 
Danh VÕ <br><i>Your Mother Sucks Cocks in Hell</i>, 2015 <br>Fragment of a marble sculpture of a child, Roman workshop, 1st-2nd century AD; oak and polychrome Madonna and child, French Early Gothic; plywood <br>53,3 × 39,6 × 35,1 cm <br>Exhibition view, « Slip of The Tongue », <br>Punta della Dogana, 2015
Danh VÕ <br><i>Christmas, Rome, 2012</i>, 2013 <br>Various elements in velvet <br>Variable dimensions
 
 
Danh VÕ <br><i>Beauty Queen</i>, 2013 <br>Wood <br>22 × 50 × 32 cm <br>Exhibition view, « Slip of The Tongue », <br>Punta della Dogana, 2015
 

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