This year’s Emerging Artist Summer Series takes on a slightly different form, this time focusing on conceptual artists. Our previous profiles ran once a week throughout July and August, this suite publishes once every day for a week. These posts will be slightly shorter, an unfortunate result of having less free time than I did last summer, though realistically speaking, if my readers have the attention span I do, it will probably only mean a greater percentage of the piece will actually get read.
Image courtesy Trong Nguyen
The first profile revisits an ongoing piece originally conceived in 2001 by Trong Nguyen titled The Diabolical. Initially inspired by Guiliani’s proposed formation of a decency standards committee intended to restrict artistic practice in the city — a topic of renewed interest given Guiliani’s presidential aspirations — Nguyen’s series similarly seeks to direct and control viewer experience. Comprised of variously sized monochromatic impasto canvases, each work rearticulates police crime lines used to identify the heights of suspects. The works themselves are repainted each time they are exhibited to match the color of the wall they displayed on, and the lines and numbers on these works painted accurately to represent the heights they depict when hung at the standard viewing height of 60 inches on center.
In concept, each layer of standardization and control creates a highly policed space. Repainting the canvases not only cloaks the works minimizing their objecthood, but reveals prescribed malleability to be essential in the evaluation of work over time. It also, of course, literalizes institutional and state record, as eventually the information buries itself in its own documentation. Ironically, the original intent to exhibit the futileness of conservation is undermined by the fact that eventually only a conservator would have the skill to remove paint obscuring the content (I propose a hypothetical situation at best though, since who removes paint from a canvas?)
The final conceptual move, creating canvas sizes that display lineup measurements at their actual height when hung at the institutional 60 inch middle marker on center reiterates the use prescribed standards to dictate viewing experience. According to Nguyen the creation of this standard, “like good or bad taste is arbitrary”. While I don’t wholly subscribe to this thought, I like that it at least attempts to neuter the constant pairing of morality with good taste in this country. After all, the last thing anyone needs here is another politician deflecting discussion of topics that might actually effect American citizens by merging values that have nothing to do with each other.
To view more of Trong Nguyen’s work click here.
Trong Nguyen, Biography
Trong G. Nguyen is an artist and curator based in New York. He has exhibited nationally and internationally in both solo and group exhibitions, including “Sequences 2006” (Iceland), “9th Havana Biennial” (Cuba), and “Performa 05” (New York). Nguyen was recently fired from his art collective Art Hijack, through no fault of his own. Two years ago he established New General Catalog, a Brooklyn exhibition space devoted to the whims of the contemporary. Nguyen also serves on the Fashion in Film Festival advisory board and has guest-lectured at Columbia University, New York University, Icelandic Art Academy, and Catalyst Foundation. He has received grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Harvestworks Digital Media Center, Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Puffin Foundation. He is currently writing a “lost chapter” to “The Da Vinci Code” based on the secret love life of Marcel Duchamp.