A Vietnamese-American Artist Uses Mixed Media to Evoke Real and Imagined Homelands
Brian Doan premieres new installation at the Vilcek Foundation Gallery
New York, June 24, 2013—An exhibition of new works by Vietnamese-born photographer and mixed-media artist Brian Doan will open this fall at the Vilcek Foundation Gallery. Entitled hôme hôme hôme, the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York City will explore his lifelong struggle with national and individual identity and reflect upon his experiences both as a child in war-scarred Vietnam and later as a young Vietnamese immigrant to the United States.
Growing up in postwar Vietnam, where his father spent ten years incarcerated in a government-run reeducation camp, Mr. Doan turned away from political propaganda and ideology at an early age and instead cultivated a private inner world. Like many in that economically and physically devastated country, his family chose to immigrate to the United States to make a better life for themselves in California. Settling in Los Angeles, the artist and his family worked hard to assimilate into mainstream American culture. Today, however, Mr. Doan self-identifies not only as an American but also as a member of the worldwide Vietnamese diaspora.
In the new body of work on display at the Vilcek Foundation Gallery, Mr. Doan pieces together images culled from his fragmented past, creating art that is political as well as personal. Utilizing video installation, glass sculpture, satirical self-portraits, and mixed-media assemblage (one piece features photography printed on a found-object car door), Mr. Doan grapples not only with memories of a lost childhood but also with the ongoing question of identity and cultural belonging as a member of two very different cultures. The work, which is by turns both poignant and humorous, evokes his ongoing desire to find (or create) a lasting “home” for himself, despite a lifelong experience of displacement, estrangement, and exile.
Executive director Rick Kinsel said of this exhibition, “Brian Doan created a radically different life for himself when he immigrated to the United States, and his work as an artist reflects both the challenge and the disorientation that he experienced as a result of that move. Through his work, we get a sense of the enormity of his life journey from Vietnam to the U.S.A. But the work has a universal appeal, because all of us are, to some greater or lesser extent, permanently separated from our past and traumatized by our separation from family and home. Understanding where we come from, recognizing that we can never go back there, and finding some way, instead, to create a new sense of home and belonging is an experience everyone can relate to. As a result, Mr. Doan’s exhibition at the Vilcek Foundation Gallery speaks not just to the experience of Vietnamese-American immigrants but to all of us, immigrant or not, who have had to reconcile ourselves too.”
Brian Doan has exhibited at a number of leading museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam, the International Center of Photography in New York, and the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City. His work has also been exhibited at the Milan Triennale. He is the recipient of many grants and awards, including an award from the California Council for the Humanities, a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, and a Rockefeller Fellowship in the Humanities. Born in Quang Ngai, Vietnam, in 1968, he attended high school and college in Vietnam, received his BFA from the University of Colorado in Denver in 2004 and his MFA from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston in 2007.
Mr. Doan currently teaches in the department of visual arts and media at Long Beach City College, in Long Beach, California. He is married and a father of a 10-year-old daughter and a 7-year-old son.