Trong Gia Nguyen

Lori Zimmer
Feb 28, 2013 6:40PM

If you watch television, then you know Trong Gia Nguyen as a contestant from Bravo‘s art reality show, Work of Art; a competition that had twelve artists create works sometimes in only a few hours, to be judged each week with risk of elimination. If you pay any attention to the New York art scene, you’ll know him too, from his tireless art making, curating, talking, writing and enlivening the art world – perhaps he’s been around too long to be considered “emerging”, but by deliberately occupying the margins, and inspiring new generations, he’s never going to be mainstream – which is why Artfetch loves him so much.

He’s one of those overachieving creative people whose art is compelling and witty, causing a giggle or chortle once the viewer gets the joke. I’ve always been drawn to it because it is incredibly intelligent, but also digestible. There’s no false pretense here, no glossing over the art world façade, no attempts at pseudo–intellectualism. Instead, his work is simply honest, and the truth is, the man is smart. He translates the horrors of the world with tongue–in–cheek candor, in a way that seems easy – in the same way that an ice skater does a triple axle effortlessly.

Nguyen brings his genius to the everyday and the familiar. Paper bags are transformed into Personal Confessionals, by simply cutting patterned holes and mounting them at shoulder–height on a gallery wall. Dorothy’s ruby slippers can be found, only clicking her way home would prove difficult thanks to repelling supermagnets in the heels. In the same vein, a tromp l’oeil staircase of a carpet made of paint leaves the viewer with false promise of an escape route. His latest piece, Win Win (pictured), plays on an artist’s eternal struggle of solitude and vanity. By replacing the other team member with a mirror, the player is constantly up against himself in a consistently losing (or winning) battle.

Nguyen’s work is the kind that you think of a few days after seeing a show, accompanied by an internal laugh, while you think what a great artist he is.

Lori Zimmer