Department of Art and Art History News

Alumna's Paintings on View at the Courtyard Gallery

Wed. April 24, 2013


The Courtyard Gallery features the artwork of faculty and alumni of the Department of Art and Art History in the College of Fine Arts. Alumna Thuy-Van Vu’s Works on Paper will be on exhibition from April 25-August 30.

While much of Thuy-Van Vu’s recent work depicts the kind of everyday urban detritus that is often overlooked or disregarded by portraying entropic views of abandoned architecture, her current endeavors consider things that are mindfully preserved. Probing into museum archives of personal items, as well as institutional storage spaces—a different, less public form of the archive—Vu renders objects that are separated from their original or intended context to create evocative portraits of a given perspective.

Thuy-Van Vu, Dresser, 2012

Vu’s subject matter takes inspiration from a variety of unlikely sources, from stacked school desks to closing sale spreads to preserved books on display in a museum. Like the content of these books, spread open to reveal just two immortalized pages under their vitrines, the personal histories of the objects are inaccessible beyond the mediated view provided by their place of display. Methodically arranged and sometimes deconstructed, the objects begin to read as a series of forms divorced from their intended place or function. Vu processes these formal elements, concentrating on a painted language of line, surface, and composition to accentuate the visceral experience of looking.

Objects potentially imbued with personal meaning or utility become shapes in space, a condensed narrative rendered in gently abstracted geometries. Whether depicting careful displays or collections of objects unceremoniously piled in storage, Vu translates these images into a painted archive that both documents and reinvents the existing tableaux. The works succeed in examining the objects themselves, but also in portraying the experience of viewing the objects through the lens of their conditional settings.

Thuy-Van Vu, Remnants of House on Meridian Avenue, 2012

Though preserved, the items of interest examined here resonate with the sense of abandonment and displacement found in Vu’s paintings of dilapidated buildings and construction sites. That these translated views are destined to be displayed in an artistic setting further complicates the ideas of place and looking inherent to Vu’s work. Through these painted documents, Vu prolongs and transforms the essence of her subjects, proving once more the point of their mutability.

-TJ Hunt

TJ Hunt is an artist and freelance writer based in Austin, Texas and Marfa, Texas. She earned a B.F.A. in Studio Art and a B.A. in Art History from The University of Texas at Austin in 2010. She is currently Editorial Assistant for the Austin-based arts magazine Pastelegram.