Installation view, Tammy Nguyen, the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, 2023-24. Photo by Mel Taing.
Connecticut-based multidisciplinary artist Tammy Nguyen (b. 1984, San Francisco) creates paintings, works on paper, unique artist books, and publications, including through her independent imprint Passenger Pigeon Press. In the densely layered symphonic space of her gilded paintings, Nguyen explores contradiction and confusion through intertwining narratives of geopolitical, environmental, and spiritual subjects. Many of her paintings are composite images that reconsider lesser-known histories against the backdrop of lush landscapes teeming with insects, animals, and plants imbued with agency, and varied symbols of violent conquest or soft power. Throughout, the beautiful aesthetic of Nguyen’s paintings is disarming, creating a productive tension that opens space to consider the histories and subjects her work examines. For the ICA, her first solo museum exhibition in the U.S., Nguyen is creating a new, interconnected body of paintings, works on paper, and artist books. These works, inspired by East Asian landscape painting, are all related to the relationship between man and nature, landscape and wilderness, as articulated in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s influential book-length essay Nature, written in 1836 in Concord, Massachusetts. Nguyen maps the lasting impact of Emerson’s writing on still commonly held ideas about nature and landscape, especially through a studied consideration of land reform programs in Vietnam during the Vietnam War.