press release

We are pleased to announce our third exhibition of work by Los Angeles based artist Tam Van Tran. The title of the show is appropriated from an essay by the Buddhist philosopher Rigdzin Jikmé Lingpa (1730-1798).

Tam Van Tran first established himself with a series of paintings on canvas and dynamic works in green Chlorophyll on paper, collectively titled Beetle Manifesto. This body of work culminated in monumental, undulating constructions of painted, hole-punched and stapled paper that were simultaneously painting, sculpture, drawing and architecture.

The use of natural materials offers Tran a back-door entry to natural references, while his art remains engaged with issues of abstract painting. He sees the filigreed lines of connectors on a computer chip are visually very similar to human veins, or those of leaves. He shifts back and forth between the industrial and the organic, the abstract and the representational, and the delicate and the roughly handmade, holding them all in a productive tension. (Brian Sholis in Whitney Biennial 2004, New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2004, page 248.)

With this new exhibition Tam Van Tran presents a series of 7 large-scale, explosive and chaotic paintings in beet juice on paper. They continue his interest in natural materials, and developing his own language of abstraction, while transferring the kinetic energy of his earlier 3 dimensional works onto a 2 dimensional field.

The range of gestures include marks made with traditional tools like brushes, sponges and palette knives as well as unexpected objects like staples, slices of lotus root and bottle caps. The resulting circles left by the bottle caps are a unifying symbol that appears throughout each work. Indicative of emptiness, they are recurring moments of pause in otherwise frenetic fields. This is just one example of the impact that the artist’s increasing interest in Buddhist teachings on emptiness have had on his work, particularly the yogic philosophy of Dzogpa Chenpo.

Similarly, Tran owes his increasingly frequent use of food materials to a meditation on the impermanence of taste. While taste, like space, is an ungraspable concept, Buddhism teaches that our tendency to filter the experience of taste through the binary thinking of good/bad can lead us further from the direct experience of the nature of the mind. Tran’s choice of beets is rooted in his childhood. He was born in Vietnam in 1966, and emigrated to the US at the age of 9. Beets, unknown in Vietnam, were one of the many foreign experiences waiting for him.

This exhibition is Tam Van Tran’s first show of new work since his inclusion in the 2004 Whitney Biennial. This past summer Tran was also the subject of his first solo museum show at The Knoxville Museum of Art. His second solo museum show is currently being organized by The Blaffer Gallery at The University of Houston.

This exhibition will remain on view through December 3, 2005 at 138 Tenth Avenue (between 18th and 19th Streets), Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 6pm. For more information or images please call 212-206-8710 or log on to www.cohanandleslie.com.

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Tam Van Tran