A VILLAGE BEFORE US is a group exhibition that brings together nine diverse contemporary Vietnamese artists and scholars based in Chicago. The exhibition showcases a wide range of creative practices, such as traditional media like paintings, sculptures, and time-based performance art, as well as innovative new media like cyber art and video and audio installations. The participating artists come from different backgrounds and career stages, from recent undergraduate students to accomplished researchers. This diverse lineup offers a dynamic and multifaceted exploration of the global Vietnamese contemporary art scene, underscoring the unique backgrounds, perspectives, and creative expressions of each individual.


A VILLAGE BEFORE US offers a comprehensive and nuanced insight into the ever-changing world of Vietnamese art, moving beyond the pervasive narrative of war and its post-war trauma. The exhibition engenders questions of cultural production, heritage, origin, identity, memory, hope, and dream, adding layers of complexity and nuance to the already complex Vietnamese narrative. By highlighting the “nowness” of Vietnamese art, the exhibition encourages reflection on both the historical aspects of Vietnamese art and the potential future trajectories.

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For general inquiries, contact us at info@AVILLAGEBEFOREUS.com


Chicago and Vietnam hold great significance to A VILLAGE BEFORE US, serving as the foundational connections that bring together the featured artists and their works. The genesis of A VILLAGE BEFORE US can be traced back to a serendipitous conversation during a visit to Albert Goodman’s Post-War Vietnamese Art Collection, which features the works of the first generation of Vietnamese modern artists, who studied at the national colonial-era art school The Ecole des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine. These masterpieces were collected by Bruce Blowitz, an American who traveled to Vietnam after its decades-long economic embargo. It was during his time in Vietnam that Blowitz met Dr. Nora Annesley Taylor at the home and studio of artist Vu Dan Tan, who ran one of Hanoi’s first independent art spaces. The importance of Chicago as a crossroad is solidified when, after his death in 2015, Blowitz left his collection in the care of his good friend, Chicago philanthropist Albert Goodman.

Chicago and Vietnam’s significance to A VILLAGE BEFORE US is further emphasized by the unanticipated coming together of the exhibition’s artists. Coming from diverse backgrounds and points of origin across the world, these artists all found themselves in Chicago for various reasons, such as pursuing education, research, or work opportunities. Through their individual connection to Dr. Nora Annesley Taylor, the artists formed a community of friends and contemporaries, paralleling the experiences of the artists within Albert Goodman’s collection, who shared similar educational and artistic backgrounds. This unique connection between Vietnam and Chicago underscores the importance of both locations to the exhibit and the artist’s creative process.


Housed on the 2nd floor of the John David Mooney Foundation, The International Currents Gallery spotlights new works, emerging artists and celebrated masters in the world of international art. With the intent to introduce international artists and display seldom-seen works, the Mooney Foundation utilizes the International Currents Gallery as a means of bringing exciting new collections to Chicago. The Foundation routinely hosts visiting artists and works closely with them in the creation and display of exhibits. The Mooney Foundation also hosts numerous events in conjunction with shows in the International Currents Gallery, including artist talks, guided tours and educational lectures.

Some of those who have presented solo exhibitions at the Foundation include architects Coop Himmelblau of Vienna and Douglas Cardinal of Ottawa, installation artist Corbin Walker of Dublin, photographer Gerald Zugmann of Vienna, and painters Jeannot Schwartz of Switzerland and Pilar Insertis of Spain.

As part of its International Currents programming, the Foundation has awarded the prestigious Chicago Prize to international artists who will then hold a studio residency before exhibiting and lecturing at the gallery. Past winners of the Chicago Prize include painter Ian Howard of Edinburgh and sculptor Ales Vesel of Prague.


A VILLAGE BEFORE US is hosted by the The International Currents Gallery at John David Mooney Foundation, with the assistance of Frances Lightbound.

This exhibition is curated by Thuy-Tien Vo, Fulbright scholar and Master of Art in Visual and Critical Studies candidate at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Dr. Nora Annesley Taylor, Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with organizational support from Ngô Hứa Minh Trí as project manager and Do Trong Quy and Đỗ Minh Giang (Jent) as designers.

Special thanks to UIC School of Art & Art History, SAIC Visual and Critical Studies, Performance, Art History Department, Communication Department, F News Magazine, and to all our families, friends, partners, assistants, and beyond.


Major funding for A VILLAGE BEFORE US is generously provided by the Edith-Marie Appleton Foundation and the John David Mooney Foundation.

Additional support has been graciously contributed by an anonymous benefactor.