All images via the Guggenheim Museum

In the first comprehensive survey of his work in the United States, Vietnamese-born, Danish conceptual artist, Danh Vo, is exploring themes of identity and belonging in his new exhibition, Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away, now on view at the Guggenheim Museum. The exhibit brings together an assemblage of documents, sculptures and photographs that were created by Vo in last 15 years during various points of his artistic career. 

Vo’s installations touch upon larger cultural and political themes, including religion, power structures, colonialism and capitalism, and how they shape both individual and collective identity. The represented collected history is filtered through the lens of Vo’s own personal narratives —  what he refers to as “the tiny diasporas of a person’s life.”

Installation view: Danh Vo وادي الحجارة, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, November 13, 2014–February 25, 2015. Image by Abigail Enzaldo and Emilio Bernabé García. Courtesy of Museo Jumex, Mexico City

Installation view: Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away. Photo by David Heald

Installation view: Danh Vo وادي الحجارة, Museo Jumex, Mexico City. Photo by Abigail Enzaldo and Emilio Bernabé García. Image courtesy of Museo Jumex, Mexico City

Installation view: Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away. Photo by David Heald

As such, much of Vo’s work relates back to his experience with forced relocation during the Fall of Saigon, which prompted his family to immigrate to Denmark. His art reflects his assimilation into European culture, as well as the plight of the refugee — particularly in reference to European and U.S. influences in Southeast Asia and Latin America.

Filling the ramps of the Guggenheim are intimate possessions: a marriage certificate, a wristwatch belonging to Vo’s father, and a heart-aching last letter home. Life-size segments of a Statue of Liberty duplicate are on display, and elaborate chandeliers — once installed above the signing of the 1973 Paris Peace Accords that ended American involvement in the Vietnam War — hang from the ceilings of the museum. Vo recontextualizes these items, leaving some untouched and melding others together, in order tell a story that spans both centuries and continents.

She was more like a beauty queen from a movie scene (2009). Photo by Jean-Daniel Pellen

Through “historical study, fortuitous encounters, and personal relationships,” he is able to stitch together what The Washington Post calls “a powerfully sad show about power, America, colonialism, and desire.”

Danh Vo: Take My Breath Away is now on display through May 9, 2018. The exhibition is organized by Katherine Brinson, Daskalopoulos Curator, Contemporary Art, with Susan Thompson, Associate Curator, and with additional support from Ylinka Barotto, Assistant Curator. For more information, visit the Guggenheim website.

Next, check out the Top 10 Secrets of the Guggenheim Museum and 10 Frank Lloyd Wright Buildings in and Around NYC.

 Danh Vo, Guggenheim Museum, Solomon R. Guggenheim

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