Crush Curatorial is pleased to announce One Blue Eye, Two Servings, a two-person exhibition featuring video, etchings, and silkscreens by Nicole Won Hee Maloof and a series of paintings by Tammy Nguyen.
Troubling relationships linked to visual perception and cultural construction, Maloof and Nguyen’s individual practices investigate the role of color through a network of social, scientific, and mythological signifiers. In their shared orbit, “One Blue Eye” holds multiple associations. The image refers to the Western eye of imperial invasion and a viewpoint negotiated via travel by ocean, a familiar landscape for refugees forced to flee tropical surroundings. At the same time, a strategy of doubling and a sense of double-consciousness permeate questions of perception that frame both of these artists’ practices.
Maloof’s video, What Color Is a Banana?, begins by interrogating the human visual system and a series of ideological values embedded within the seemingly neutral language of the natural sciences. As the work progresses, the banana is employed as a tool to demonstrate the contradictions between pervasive means of representation and marginalized realities. Familiar advertisement motifs and contemporary vernacular, ranging from Google maps to viral videos and Christmas songs, are repeated throughout this work. As initial simple concepts form an intricate interchange of political and social import, Maloof transmutes an alternative narrative through the single object of the banana. The video reveals how systemic injustices, from labor exploitation to imperialism to race relations, are bound up within this mineral-rich fruit. With an accompanying series of video still etchings, the artist also provides viewers the opportunity to pause and reflect on the complex relationships explored through this fast-paced work. The third component of the project is a series of diagrammatic silkscreen prints, which consist of quotes, schematic sketches, and hand-written notes footnoting the video.
Nguyen’s paintings take Book 9 of The Odyssey, and the figure of the Cyclops, as a starting point. Exploring this text through a colonial reading, the artist re-imagines the land of the Cyclops as the tropics of the global south, focusing on geopolitical histories of the Pacific Rim in particular. Within her layered compositions, Nguyen expands this fictional narrative, transforming the Cyclops into a feminine figure and replacing abundances of sheep with bananas – lush plants that grow plentifully but have a mind of their own. In this context, the harmless fruit is invigorated with potent agency – functioning as a weapon, an object that forces Fellatio and a nutritional source – denoting protection, violence, power and sustenance all at once. The paintings are also deeply concerned with the condition of divided identity and explore Book 9’s infamous trick where Odysseus tells Polyphemus that his name is “nobody.” Here, Nguyen uses the slight as a way to demonstrate erasure of language, mythology, and culture in locales of the Pacific Rim. References to U.S. military presence and missionary projects are also referenced within Nguyen’s evocative world. —Alison Karasyk
The artist writes, “for the tropical person, or, the colonial and now post-colonial subject, the state of double consciousness can be the state of both recognizing your oppressor, resisting him, and yet [also succumbing] to his system and even [indulging] in some of the splendor.”
One Blue Eye, Two Servings is the first exhibition to place Maloof and Nguyen’s work in conversation and is the result of a year of dialogue.
The exhibition will be on view at Crush Curatorial from October 18 through November 10, with an opening reception taking place on October 18 from 6 to 8pm. Details on the exhibition’s public program and invitations will be shared in the coming weeks.
Join the conversation via @crushcuratorial and #OneBlueEyeTwoServings
Nicole Won Hee Maloof (b. 1983) works within an interdisciplinary art practice, encompassing drawing, printmaking, and video. Through these mediums, Maloof challenges and explores the artifice of categorical boundaries, and by extension, their social repercussions. Maloof’s drawings and 2D works explore anxieties connected to the body, as well as interpersonal relations, addressing the inescapable physical, social, and political limitations of our human existence, often addressed through the use of humor. Maloof’s videos investigate what it means to know—is it possible to trust conventional disciplines and institutions of knowledge, let alone our own individual sensory input and resulting memories? This set of inquiries stems from the artist’s own background and diverse experiences. Born in Korea and raised in Massachusetts, Maloof received a BFA in painting and a BA in chemistry from Boston University. After graduation, Maloof worked on organic chemistry research at Harvard University, taught in Korea for two years on a Fulbright teaching grant, and then moved to New York, where she earned her MFA in the visual arts from Columbia University. Maloof lives and works in New York, and is currently a Visiting Assistant Professor of Art at Sarah Lawrence College for the 2018-2019 academic year.
Tammy Nguyen (b. 1984, San Francisco, CA) is a multimedia artist working with geopolitics, fiction, and less known histories. She received a BFA from the Cooper Union in 2007 and an MFA from the Yale School of Art in 2013. From 2007-08, Nguyen was a Fulbright Scholar in Vietnam. She has exhibited at the Rubin Museum, Leroy Neiman Center, San-Art, The Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City, the Bronx Museum, Wave Hill, Carriage Barns Art Center, Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, and the Inside-Out Museum. In 2014, Nguyen has been awarded the Van Lier Fellowship at Wave Hill and inclusion in the Bronx AIM program. She has been an artist in residence at The Center for Books Arts and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Process Space. Last year, she was an Asia Delegate for the Carnegie Council. Her work is included in the collections of Yale University, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, MIT Library, the Walker Art Center Library, and the Museum of Modern Art Library. In Fall 2016, Nguyen founded Passenger Pigeon Press, an independent press that brings the work of scientists, journalists, creative writers, and visual artists together to create politically nuanced projects.