This selection of works springs from Phong Bui’s larger, ongoing series of site-specific social installations, which began as early as 2000—the year the acclaimed publication The Brooklyn Rail was officially conceived. Until 2007, most of his works had been responses to given sites, spatially and temporally contingent upon the installation’s time constraints. Since then, he has increasingly dedicated himself to the challenge of transforming the Rail from mere, ephemeral printed matter into a work of art: a social sculpture, as described by Beuys, in which an organic process that resists political or aesthetic dogma perpetually asserts itself, while being inclusive and interactive. While his exertions have become ever more onerous—he now makes a portrait of all the Rail’s featured artists and writers, and juggles a hectic array of curatorial, reading, and teaching projects—his playful and child-like temperament has become more and more pronounced.
Bui is encouraged by the recent rediscoveries of legendary self-taught artist James Castle and of collage as a suitable medium and invigorated by his longstanding love and admiration for Saint Exupéry, especially the Little Prince and Night Flight. Such influences have enabled him to generate an endless repertoire of images, created through a combined effort of both left and right hands while strictly adhering to parameters of time and format. (Most are painted on envelopes or small pieces of paper within an hour or two, depending on the down time his full-time-plus schedule at the Rail allows; occasionally a full day of studio work is available, and these smaller fragments can be made into larger, more complex works.)
These 25 collage paintings were mostly made since the flooding of his studio earlier this year (which destroyed 20 percent of his work). In addition to his exploration and curation of uncensored images, Bui’s primary concerns include the space between memory and imagination, the inclusion of text, and the variety of patinas available through different surface treatments.
Phong Bui is an artist, writer, and independent curator (curatorial advisor at MoMA P.S.1, from 2007 to 2010). He is also the co-founder, editor, and publisher of the monthly journal The Brooklyn Rail and the publishing press Brooklyn Rail Editions, as well as the Host/Producer of Off the Rail on Art International Radio. He has taught and lectured at Skowhegan, Columbia University, Yale University, Rhode Island School of Design, School of Visual Arts, Pratt Institute, Parsons the New School for Design, University of Texas in Austin, University of Pennsylvania, and Bard College. He currently teaches at the School of Visual Arts Graduate Program in Art Criticism & Writing and MFA in Photography, Video, and Related Media, and at Yale University School of Art’s MFA in Painting/Printmaking as Core Critic.
This exhibition is dedicated to Elizabeth Baker and Shoja Azari.
Curated by Ricardo Kugelmas.