Christine Nguyen

August 16, 2006 - December 31, 2006

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Migration over the Woods and Its Strange Powers

Installation at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, 2006. Photo by Joshua White.

Christine Nguyen's works on paper are influenced by the artist's memories, landscape imagery, and imagined visions. She combines a variety of media and photographic processes, creating multilayered forms that move freely from representation to abstraction. Natural elements like trees and rivers and whimsical animals share space with fanciful boats and villages, all of which seem to exist in a universe with its own secret logic and energy.

About the Exhibition

By Kristina Newhouse

In Migration over the Woods and Its Strange Powers (2006), Christine Nguyen envisions a wondrous world populated by chimerical entities that would fit neatly in Jorge Luis Borges's 1954 anthology The Book of Imaginary Beings. Scientific advances—from the nineteenth-century discovery of microscopic unicellular organisms to twenty-first century theories of deep space—have informed Nguyen's cosmogonic sensibilities. As a mythmaker, she derives an understanding from science of the systems by which her entities come into being, sustain themselves in their environment, procreate, and ultimately perish. The life forms in her fantastical world engage in complex and interrelated behaviors. Each creature has been given a specific modality and set of tasks, from shelter and transportation to the dissemination of collective wisdom.

Visitors to Nguyen's alternative reality are presented with an array of odd and fanciful beings. Diatomaceous elements resembling non-Cartesian urban topographies drift past gnarled, hydralike limbs that have broken free from a grand arboreal mandala. Craggy jellyfish islands sustain both plant life and human settlements from a series of rootlike tentacles. A flock of long-billed birds wings energetically across the vast habitat; discernible along their underbellies is a row of square panels that suggest the windows of an airplane. As the bird/carriers pass through the titular woods, they are mysteriously transformed into narwhals. Charged with a new task, each narwhal has a large vacuole in its torso that encapsulates trees and a cityscape, forms of vestigial knowledge from the past that the nomadic pod of marine mammals must transport into the future. More

Kristina Newhouse is curator of the Torrance Art Museum.


Hammer Projects are made possible with support from The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, Fox Entertainment Group's Arts Development Fee, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, members of the Hammer Circle, and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund.

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