VietNamNet Bridge – An exhibition showcasing the reproduction of propaganda artworks created between 1969 and 1972 by the late celebrated Cuban graphic arist René Mederos and art pieces by five established contemporary Vietnamese artists produced in response to the series will be held at Work Room Four, Packexim Building, An Duong Vuong Street, Hanoi from May 19 through June 12.
In 1969 René Mederos (1933-1996) was sent by the Cuban government to Vietnam to paint scenes of the war in both North and South Vietnam. Mederos travelled with soldiers and villagers along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, living and working with the Vietnamese community.
He returned to Vietnam in 1972, and once again painted images of the Vietnamese resistance, often at great personal risk. During his two trips to Vietnam, Mederos amassed a collection of over three-dozen works of various sizes, depicting the grassroots revolutionary movement of the Vietnamese in vibrant, detailed paintings.
Mederos’ work aimed to demonstrate solidarity that the Cuban people felt for the Vietnamese people, rather than to glorify war. Over the years, his paintings and posters of the war have been displayed by anti-war organisations and in art galleries around the world.
This exhibition showcasing eighteen archival prints of the paintings/posters that Mederos created during his two visits to Vietnam is the first time they are exhibited in Vietnam since their initial display in the country.
The works are drawn from two social justice poster collections based in California, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles (directed by Carol Wells) and the Docs Populi Archive in Berkeley (directed by Lincoln Cushing). Wells and Cushing both knew Mederos personally and have promoted his work through essays, books, lectures, and exhibitions.
The exhibition is taking place thanks to the efforts of Mederos’ grandson Marcelo Brociner alongside the assistance of these organisations. Marcelo wants to bring his grandfather’s work back to Vietnam ever since he himself visited the country for an internship at Work Room Four in 2016.
Complementing the show will be the works of five contemporary Vietnamese artists, who will create artworks in response to Mederos’ work.
By inviting Le Quy Tong, Nguyen The Son, Nguyen Nghia Cuong, Pham Khac Quang and Giang Nguyen to participate in the exhibition, not only will a past Vietnam be represented through the Mederos work, but also reflections on contemporary Vietnamese society and their reactions to past and present will be shown from the perspective of these five artists.
With the inclusion of these two contrasting yet equally important narratives, this exhibition will create a space for a dialogue focusing on the legacy of Mederos’ work as seen through the eyes of 21st century Vietnamese Artists.
This exhibition brings the focus away from conflict to a space of collaboration and solidarity. We as nations are now eternally bound and it is imperative that we all work together for a peaceful coexistence.
Born in 1933 in Sagual la Grande in Cuba, Mederos was a self-taught illustrator and began his career as a graphic designer at a print shop in Havana in 1944. In1959 he was appointed Head Designer for the Cuban television station Intercommunications, where he first started creating posters in his distinct graphic style of vibrant colors and sharp contours in 1964. The artist passed away in Cuba on the 24th of September 1996.
The multidisciplinary designer Giang Nguyen who works both as a design lecturer and an independent graphic designer in Ho Chi Minh City is best known for his typefaces and pattern work that take their inspiration from old signage, fonts and artisanship from a variety of cities and cultures. He was born in 1988 and received his BA in Multimedia Design from RMIT University in Ho Chi Minh City before pursuing an MA in Graphic Design in the United States.
Over his career spanning almost two decades, painter Le Quy Tong established himself as one of the most prolific artists working in Vietnam today. His practice is ever-evolving as he continues to explore a variety of painting and wet and dry media, which range from oil on canvas to sketching on paper and mixed media collage work. Tong was born in 1977 in Hanoi where he graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Arts in 2000.
Part of the first generation of contemporary artists to emerge in Hanoi post Doi Moi (Renovation), Cuong made his mark with work that employs a bright color palette, naïve brush strokes and a strong sense of direction and humor depicting whimsical scenes of life and the human condition. His humorous approach lends itself well to his depictions with which he tackles darker socio-political realities and reflections on the complexity of self and the observation of the self and others. Cuong was born in 1973 in Bac Ninh and graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Art in Hanoi in 1996.
Over the past decade The Son, who first trained as a silk painter, has been using photography as a medium to engage in both past and present social and historical issues and has established a unique and impressive body of work, whilst continuously challenging the definition and role of contemporary photography in Vietnam. The Son was born in 1978 in Hanoi and graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Art where he works as a lecturer today. He holds a Masters in Photography from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing.
The printer and graphic artist Quang has both perfected his wood-cut printing methods derived from traditional Dong Ho prints and developed innovative methods allowing him to position the medium in a contemporary art practice. He is both celebrated as one of the best craftsmen in his field and has made his mark as a contemporary artist. Quang was born in 1975 in Hai Duong and graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Arts in Hanoi in 2003.
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