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Public and private politics in Vietnamese art, 2023, Wendy Wei, Chicago Reader

A Review of A VILLAGE BEFORE US, 2024, Zulkhairi Zulkiflee, Art and Market

Curator Thuy-Tien Vo Reflects on A VILLAGE BEFORE US, 2024, SAIC News



The John David Mooney Foundation is proud to present A VILLAGE BEFORE US, a group exhibition that brings together nine diverse contemporary Vietnamese artists and scholars currently based in Chicago. The exhibition is shown concurrently with, and is a response to, the Albert Goodman collection of Vietnamese post-war art presently on view at the International Currents Gallery at the Foundation. By paralleling these two exhibits, A VILLAGE BEFORE US makes the Vietnamese art scene present and fosters community among the participating artists while cultivating engagement with the broader community in Chicago.

The genesis of A VILLAGE BEFORE US can be traced back to a serendipitous conversation during a visit to Albert Goodman’s 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 the late Bruce Blowitz, an American who traveled to Vietnam in the mid-1990s, after its decades-long economic embargo. It was during his time in Vietnam that Blowitz met Dr. Nora Annesley Taylor, now Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 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.

Dr. Nora Taylor on Albert Goodman’s Collection of Vietnamese Art

Coming from diverse backgrounds and points of origin across the world, the participating artists in A VILLAGE BEFORE US found themselves in Chicago for various reasons, from pursuing education and research to seeking work opportunities. Through their individual connection to Dr. Nora Annesley Taylor, these artists formed a community of friends and contemporaries, mirroring the experiences of the artists within Albert Goodman’s collection who shared similar educational and artistic backgrounds. Hence, the title of the exhibition, A VILLAGE BEFORE US. This title embodies the fundamental aspects of Vietnamese culture and the art world. ‘A VILLAGE’ is an extended unit formed of nuclear connections, while ‘BEFORE’ acknowledges the legacy of its past and stands in anticipation of its future trajectory. ‘US’, a plural pronoun, intimately speaks to the collective identity of the participating artists while subtly playing with the moniker of the group’s current home.

A VILLAGE BEFORE US will feature a remarkable group of artists currently working in Chicago, including Le Hien Minh, Do Trong Quy, Maya Nguyen, Ngô Hứa Minh Trí, Nguyễn Trần Đoan Trang, Đỗ Minh Giang (Jent), Vo Thuy-Tien (in collaboration with Claire Lobenfeld, Zheng Yezhou, Jung Soo Kim, Tzuen/Theo Wu) as well as art historians Justin Quang Nguyên Phan and Nora Annesley Taylor.

The exhibition will run from November 10th to December 31st, 2023, at the John David Mooney Foundation, located at 114 W Kinzie Street, Chicago, IL. The gallery will be open Tuesday through Friday, from 11am to 6pm.