“On Contested Terrain” is the first comprehensive museum survey for Vietnamese-American artist An-My Lê. Organized by the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, the exhibition travels to Texas, where it’s overseen by the Amon Carter Museum of American Art’s assistant curator of photographs, Kristen Gaylord. Born in Saigon in 1960, Lê lived her childhood during the Vietnam War, fleeing her homeland as a teen in 1975 and eventually settling in the U.S., where she received degrees at Stanford and Yale.
Now a professor at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, Lê is also a 2012 MacArthur Genius Fellow. In an Art21 feature, she spoke about approaching the idea of war “in a more complicated and challenging way.” At The Carter, all five of Lê’s signature series are featured, inviting museum-goers to contemplate topics from Vietnam, decades after the war, to American naval vessels in far flung ports of call, as well as the issues of Confederate monuments and America’s immigration debates.
For “Photography Is Art,” the Carter’s senior curator of photographs, John Rohrbach, culls 41 iconic images from the museum’s extensive holdings, which are considered among the top in the U.S. He tells PaperCity, “The exhibition runs chronologically, starting in 1894 with the first real efforts to gain photography’s acceptance as an art form on par with painting, and running to an image made last year in Washington, D.C. In the middle, it steps back for a moment to 1871 and the art world’s embrace of photography’s historical roots that occurred in the 1970s.” Pivotal to the transformation of the medium into today’s full-on art-world bear hug was a seminal, multi-year project the Amon Carter commissioned from Richard Avedon, (one work from this series is represented here).
“The Carter’s 1985 exhibition ‘In the American West: Photographs by Richard Avedon’ did three things,” says Rohrbach. “It put the museum on the international map as a vibrant program assembling interesting projects. It solidified Avedon’s reputation as something more than a celebrity and fashion photographer — as an artist who was perceptively exploring the human condition. And it revealed the tremendous power of large prints. Here, one came face to face with life-size likenesses that sucked you in to peruse detail and cope with the emotions and condition of the person standing before you. That experience opened the door to a whole new way of thinking about photography and its potential to connect us to the world..”
Both exhibits on view April 18 – August 8; cartermuseum.org.