P·P·O·W is pleased to present Warp, Woof, Zero, One, an exhibition of new work by Dinh Q. Lê. Best known for his large-scale photographs and video works, Lê has developed an artistic practice that insists on deeper engagement with the way global crisis is perceived and understood. The exhibition, which includes sculpture, photoweavings, and video works, continues Lê’s investigation, shifting away from exploration of personal history, focusing instead on his artistic practice and providing a platform for him to test the boundaries of the photographic medium.
The exhibition opens with The Last of the Alchemists, an elegiac sculpture composed of a silver-leaf lacquered box. Reminiscent of a coffin, the work entombs a large scroll of light sensitive chemical photographic paper, which has been sealed off completely from the light, ensuring that the paper inside – a last vestige of analog photography – will be preserved as we move into the digital age. Disinterested in indulging in nostalgia for the end of the analog era, Lê sees this work as an homage to chemical photography, a time capsule for commemorating the medium, and a starting point from which to begin explore the infinite possibilities for the digital medium.
Lê’s exhibition includes a series of photoweavings that push the possibility for creating three-dimensionality with two-dimensional materials. Lê has been creating photo-tapestries for nearly two decades, but unlike his earlier works, which featured grid-like structures, these photoweavings appear as though caught in a state of destabilization. The neat geometries of previous works are abandoned and replaced with dynamic curves that evoke movement and collapse. As in his earlier work, these pieces are created from sourced images of various conflicts – from the Vietnam War to the genocide in Cambodia – as well as from images of Michelangelo’s frescoes from the Sistine Chapel. Cut apart and then woven together, the work evokes the idea that there is no true historic ‘moment,’ but rather that history is a complicated series of multifaceted narratives.
The Scroll of Thich Quang Duc, is a 150-foot scroll that depicts a single image of the infamous self-immolation of Buddhist monk in 1963, which continues Lê’s exploration of historic imagery. For this work, Lê took the iconic image, and digitally stretched it to fill the entire scroll – a feat that would have been impossible in the days of dark room printing. Overturning Henri Cartier-Bresson’s notion of the “precise moment,” Lê here argues for a more fluid view of history, one that accounts for all of the small moments that compose the pivotal events permanently etched in our historical memory. Lê’s use of a scroll evokes the art-historical tradition of Chinese landscape paintings, which tells the cumulative story of an event by virtue of the length of the scroll on which it was painted.
In WTC in Four Moments, Lê has created a four-channel video work with sound that depicts four images of the World Trade Center: before the attack, during the attack, after the collapse, and during the rebuilding. For these works Lê printed 200-meter (656 ft.) long stretched digital versions of each image in Photoshop, and then put them through After Effects to create a six minute video of each. The abstracted version of the work removes all iconic connotations associated with September 11th, leaving the viewer to reconsider the events as a slow progression of moments that led to a cataclysmic trauma and the newly built One WTC.
Dinh Q. Lê lives in Vietnam and holds an MFA in photography from the School of Visual Arts in New York. He participated in the 2013 Carnegie International at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, dOCUMENTA 13 in 2012, the 2009 Biennale Cuveê in Linz, Austria, the 2008 Singapore Biennale, and the 2006 Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, in Brisbane, Australia. His work has been exhibited at major institutions including: Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York; Carnegie Museum, Pittsburgh, PA, Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation, Sydney, Australia; MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas; Tufts University Art Gallery, Medford, Massachusetts; and the Asia Society, New York, New York, among many others. His work is currently the subject of the solo exhibition Crossing the Farther Shore at the Rice University Art Gallery. The Mori Museum of Art in Tokyo is currently organizing a survey of his work for 2015. Lê's work is also included in numerous permanent collections including The Museum of Modern Art, The Ford Foundation, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art.