American artist Tammy Nguyen's multidisciplinary and research-oriented practice unearths lesser-known histories and geopolitical relationships through a combination of myth and elaborate visual narrative.Read More
Tammy Nguyen was born in 1984 in San Francisco. She completed her BFA at the Cooper Union in New York in 2007. Following her undergraduate studies, Nguyen received a Fulbright scholarship to pursue lacquer painting in Vietnam, where she worked at a ceramics company for the next three years. In 2013, she received her MFA in Painting and Printmaking from Yale University School of Art.
Nguyen's multimedia practice has spanned painting, drawing, printmaking, and publications. Her work particularly addresses geopolitical issues, ecology, and history, most notably narratives relating to Southeast Asia and her own personal family histories. These entanglements are seen through her boldly rendered paintings of lush plants alongside figures such as animals or politicians.
In Tammy Nguyen, Freehold (2021), her solo exhibition at Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, Nguyen specifically addressed Malaysia's 'Forest City', a man-made, tax-free island development located within one of the world's busiest trade conduits. As part of the artistic process of this exhibition, Nguyen posed as a potential investor to visit the area, uncovering the utopian and capitalist ideations of this real estate development. Following this, she designed and created a flag and flagpole to represent the island and exhibited it alongside a photograph of the flag in a nondescript field in Connecticut. The design of this flag included a white sun at its centre, with alternating blue and green stripes, signifying the harmonious coexistence of water and land.
For the same exhibition, Nguyen also created prints and collages responding to container ships to highlight the machineries of global trade. Each work, named after vessels such as Everglobe, Treasure, and Destiny, features a combination of imagery such as birds of prey, pictures taken from the 1986–1993 Marvel comic The 'Nam, and iterations of the flag Nguyen created for Forest City.
At the 2022 edition of S.E.A. Focus, a showcase of contemporary art from Southeast Asia presented by the Tropical Futures Institute, Nguyen built upon this research through further explorations into the Bandung Conference of 1955 (a meeting of Asian and African nations to discuss peace), considering its aspirations, and failures. For this presentation, she crafted portraits of what she imagined to be four military leaders for Forest City: Chou En-Lai of China, Carlos Peña Romulo of the Philippines, Jawaharlal Nehru of India, and Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt.
Nguyen is the founder of Passenger Pigeon Press, an independent press that focuses on the creation and support of artist books. Passenger Pigeon Press houses three projects that all respond to culture, the environment, and geopolitical issues.
These projects include Martha's Quarterly, a quarterly subscription of four artist books a year. This project aims to present thoughtful investigations through interdisciplinary partnerships and study. Collaborations are projects done with artists and thinkers who look into lesser-known histories. The project has included work such as Atomic Sublime (2019), an artist book created with collective Bombshelltoe, that investigated the nuclear histories in Nevada and the Grand Canyon. Lastly, Public Domain is an archival project that reproduces publicly accessible governmental documents as a means to 'make [archives] more public.'
Tammy Nguyen has held solo exhibitions at Sàn Art, Vietnam; School of the Art Institute, Chicago; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn; and Hesse Flatow, New York. Her work has been included in group exhibitions at MoMA PS1, New York; The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre, Vietnam; and NARS Foundation, New York.
Tammy Nguyen's website can be found here and her Instagram can be found here.
Arianna Mercado | Ocula | 2022