Marian Goodman Gallery
is pleased to continue our artist-centric newsletter IN FOCUS
, where we delve deeply into one artist on the MGG roster at a time. Aiming to show a fuller picture of the breadth of our artists' careers, we will feature our favorite stories, podcasts, interviews, artists’ writings and videos from the archive, as well as new and upcoming projects.An-My Lê
(b.1960, Saigon, Vietnam) currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Raised in the epicenter of the American war in Vietnam, Lê experienced the turmoil of war at an early age. In 1975, Lê fled Vietnam with her family, eventually settling in the United States as a political refugee. As a refugee, Lê often grappled with notions of identity and authenticity. For generations, Vietnam had been westernized by France, then by the United States. As Lê recently put it, “How do you argue for authenticity in an identity that grew out of colonized cultures?” Lê found the answer in landscape photography. In 1994, after receiving her MFA from the Yale University School of Art, Lê visited Vietnam for the first time since her exile. There, she used a large-format film camera to create her photographic series, Viêt Nam
(1994–1998). Through this series of black-and-white photographs, often shot from an elevated perspective, Lê reconciled her childhood memories with the country’s contemporary realities. The panoramic views enabled her to examine the terrain and to confront its layers of history. “My understanding of landscape changed when I went to Vietnam,” An-My Lê said. “Instead of seeking the real I began making photographs that use the real to ground the imaginary.”
Lê has continued to address the environmental and cultural impacts of war in her photographs by adopting a distinctive parallel approach: one that observes the American military from both the inside, as an American, and the outside, as a Vietnamese refugee. Her clear-eyed perception and distanced perspective as both artist and outsider challenge the status of photographic ‘objectivity,’ which is capable of blurring the boundaries between the actual and its representation. At the same time, Lê’s photographs have embraced performance as a means to explore conflict and war (e.g., Small Wars
, 1999–2002), the military-industrial complex (e.g., 29 Palms
, 2003–2004), and national identity (e.g., Silent General
, 2015–present). It is no surprise, then, Lê’s work has made her one of the most reliable witnesses to the complexities of American life.
Current exhibitions by Lê include the traveling career survey, On Contested Terrain,
on view at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth, Texas, through 8 August 2021, and đô-mi-nô,
on view at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York through 20 August 2021.
Awards and grants include the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2021); the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2010); the National Science Foundation, Antarctic Artists and Writers Program Award (2007); the John Gutmann Photography Fellowship (2004); and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship (1997).
Lê is also the Charles Franklin Kellogg and Grace E. Ramsey Kellogg Professor in the Arts at Bard College, New York, where she has taught since 1999.
Today, follow along as we explore the unique imagery of Lê’s photographic terrain…