An-My Le Photo Exhibit at the Fort Worth TX Museum

An-My Lê (b. ​​1960), Fragment VII: Film Set (Free State of Jones), Firing Lesson, Chicot State Park, Louisiana, 2016, inkjet print.

An-My Lê (b. ​​1960), Fragment VII: Film Set (Free State of Jones), Firing Lesson, Chicot State Park, Louisiana, 2016, inkjet print.

Courtesy of the artist and the Marian Goodman Gallery

A new photography exhibit features re-enactments of the Vietnam War, soldiers in training and at work, the removal of Confederate statues, and behind-the-scenes footage from a Matthew McConaughey film.

“On contested ground”, An-My Lê’s mid-career survey of 78 photographs, takes place from April 18 to August 8 at Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Born in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1960, Lê was transported out of the country by the US military before the fall of Saigon in 1975. She became a refugee in the United States, obtained an MFA in Yale and is currently a professor at Bard College.

In 1994, she returned to her country of origin and created the first series included here, “Vietnam”. Using black and white film and a large format camera, Lê juxtaposed images of modern Vietnam with traditional agricultural scenes that resembled the environment she had grown up in in her home country. .

Focusing on landscapes but including people with a formal and classic approach, Lê created his signature style with this series. Images of bullet-riddled buildings and subtropical plants across the country, as opposed to regions stripped by Napalm, approach the war in a less sensational way than it has been portrayed in Hollywood movies.

“She is interested in the legacy of war and its effects,” said Kristen Gaylord, Carter’s assistant photography curator. “But she’s not interested in graphic violence. She doesn’t show a fight.

Lê, however, photographed and participated in reenactments of the Vietnam War for his next series. “Small Wars” perfectly captures the place between photojournalism and fiction she explores in her work.

By studying the Vietnam War from an American perspective, Lê learned from the men in the forests of North Carolina and Virginia. Like Civil War enthusiasts, these men were obsessed with authenticity and would only agree to be photographed if Lê participated. She grew up in southern Vietnam but appears in this series as a North Vietnamese soldier, a Viet Cong rebel, or a trader helping Americans.

Lê even wears a black jumpsuit and points a sniper rifle at two of the American reenactors in one image, “Sniper I, 1999-2002”.

“This is something that seems particularly relevant with the rise in violence against Asian Americans,” Gaylord said. “She hasn’t met any veteran. She met people who were working on issues related to the war she escaped from. Some of the guys got really involved and yelled problematic stuff at him. “

For her next project in 2003, Lê hoped to be integrated into the Iraq War front, but ended up in the San Bernardino County Marine Corps Air Combat Center, known as 29 Palms. Captured during training exercises and downtime, the soldiers find themselves in an area that resembles Afghanistan and Iraq. The site was also used by Marines preparing for the Vietnam War.

With buildings meant to resemble Iraqi towns and exercises that included cadets dressed as Iraqis, Lê was once again photographing re-enactments of war. Surrounded by a vast desert, the men and their tanks sometimes look like tiny plastic toys and seem to disappear into the rocks.

These are huge pictures, but Lê’s wide field of focus reveals dust, shadows and light, and the bored expressions of the soldiers in an incredible level of detail. It showcases Lê’s skills as a photographer as well as the way she assembles her compositions with as much care as a painter.

For his next series, “Events Ashore”, Lê uses color film and begins photographing soldiers at work with real military equipment. Taken while Lê was on board ships going from Antarctica to Greenland, these photographs still seem to be staged. Images of aircraft personnel cleaning the USS Ronald Reagan or teaming up to manipulate a high pressure hose, for example, appear theatrical enough to be scenes from a Broadway play.

In 2015, Lê began his ongoing series of road trips, “Silent General”, to New Orleans when the Confederate statues were removed. Similar to his work in Vietnam, many of these photographs capture ordinary people and landscapes. This series also includes behind-the-scenes footage from Matthew McConaughey’s 2016 war drama, “Free State of Jones.”

Throughout her career, Lê’s work has conveyed her complicated relationship with the U.S. military, which waged a disastrous war in her home country but also saved her. Instead of glorifying the material or offering a critique, she approaches it with a poetic sense of history.

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