Three Things You Should Know About Tam Van Tran
In Pop Explosion, delicate copper leaf flutters in the wind, reacting to the environment while also referencing traditional Asian gold-leafed screens. The palm leaf and cardboard come directly from the landscape of L.A.
Born in Vietnam and based in Los Angeles, Tam Van Tran’s work often delves into the complexities of a life that must incorporate ideas, materials, and influences from multiple countries. Some of his recent of paintings conjure a sense of landscape through their physical presence and material choices. In Pop Explosion, delicate copper leaf flutters in the wind, reacting to the environment while also referencing traditional Asian gold-leafed screens. The palm leaf and cardboard come directly from the landscape of LA as found objects inherent to city life on the West Coast. The resulting work is a vibrating, shimmering surface that continues some of the painting and sculpture strategies set out by Robert Rauschenberg and the Arte Povera artists. Tran’s work was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and he has had numerous international exhibitions, including Tam Van Tran: Psychonaut at the Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, and SubUrban: Tam Van Tran at the Knoxville Museum of Art. His work can be found in the permanent collections of Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Broad Collection, Santa Monica; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; and The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis.
Working with materials that jog his memories and reflect his experiences, Tam Van Tran makes abstract, mixed-media collages and sculptures dense with textured layers. His works range from large-scale canvases covered with thick accretions of found and natural materials to richly colored ceramic and glass sculptures. Everything he uses has personal significance. Porcelain and clay signify the ceramic jars in which his mother fermented fish sauce; copper leaf and palm fronds recall the palm trees of his native Vietnam and his adopted Los Angeles. Landscapes—of Vietnam during and after the war and Los Angeles and the California coast—strongly influence Tran. So do Eastern crafts and Western artistic movements like Arte Povera and California ceramics. His works read, in part, as landscapes—from the Vietnamese coastline littered with bombs to the American coast crisscrossed by freeways.
Vietnamese, b. 1966, Kon Tum, Vietnam, based in Los Angeles, California