The Propeller Group

When 27 Oct 2017 - 25 Mar 2018
Where San Jose Museum of Art
110 South Market Street
San Jose, CA 95113
United States
Enquiry 408 271 6840

The Propeller Group anchors its ambitious projects in Vietnam’s history and its paradoxical present. Based in Vietnam and Los Angeles, the art collective extends its reach to address global phenomena, from street culture to international commerce to traditions shared across cultures.

Organized by the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the Phoenix Art Museum, The Propeller Group is the first major survey exhibition dedicated to the collective. The exhibition brings together a number of multi-part projects from the past five years, comprising video, installation, and sculptural works that represent the scope of the group’s artistic practice. In conjunction with the exhibition The Propeller Group and internationally acclaimed muralist El Mac will also create a new public mural in the streets of San José.

“In multifaceted projects, The Propeller Group blurs the lines between modes of cultural production and embraces the formats of branding campaigns, television commercials, Hollywood movies, and music videos to address the complex ideologies that drive global commerce, war, cultural ritual, and historical memory,” said Lauren Dickens, curator at SJMA.

Among the highlights of the exhibition is The Living Need Light, the Dead Need Music (2014), a film that follows funerary traditions of the Mekong Delta. It combines documentary footage, staged reenactments, and fantastical scenes to explore slippages between real and imagined rituals shared across cultures. It will be paired with accompanying sculptures inspired by traditional Vietnamese funerary objects: a carved jackfruit wood snake with gold fangs and an adorned water buffalo skull.

Also on view will be AK-47 vs M16 (2015–16), a multi-part mixed media work that includes a film, a video, works on paper, and accompanying objects. The project references the two weapons popularly associated with opposing sides of the Cold War. Working with ballistics experts in a lab, the artists fired the weapons at each other into translucent blocks composed of a dense gel used for ballistics testing. A related film assembles clips from news reels, Hollywood films, YouTube, and other sources to illustrate how these weapons came to be indelibly intertwined with the Cold War in the popular imagination.

The San José Museum of Art’s presentation of the exhibition will include additional works not seen at previous venues, such as the 2016 sculpture Antique Earth Satellite. Carved from jackfruit wood and found tracwood (a type of Vietnamese red wood) the intricate sculpture combines a traditional Vietnamese carving method with a futuristic subject matter drawn from science fiction. SJMA’s exhibition will include several related objects, in which the imagination of the future is projected onto objects of the past.

Public mural
The mural is a collaborative undertaking by the San José Museum of Art, The Propeller Group, El Mac, award-winning children’s author and artist Christopher Myers, San José’s Empire 7 Studios, and the Children’s Discovery Museum. Monumental in scale, the new permanent public mural will feature a single portrait of a young refugee. The Propeller Group has created public murals around the world as part of its ongoing project Vietnam: The World Tour (VNTWT). Previous iterations have been presented in Kabul, Singapore, Brisbane, Los Angeles, Paris, Lyon, and Amsterdam. The mural will bring a larger-than-life face of a refugee youth to a highly-visible wall of the Children’s Discovery Museum in downtown San José. The wall faces a city park and is visible from the freeway. It is the product of extensive and ongoing work by the collaborating artists.

The accompanying catalogue includes contributions from the artists as well as writings by Naomi Beckwith, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; Cesar Garcia, curator, writer, and founding director of The Mistake Room in Los Angeles; and Claudia Schmuckli, curator-in-charge, contemporary art and programming at Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (formerly director and chief curator at Blaffer Art Museum).

About The Propeller Group
The Propeller Group was founded in 2006 and consists of members Matt Lucero (born 1976, Upland, California), Tuan Andrew Nguyen (born 1976, Saigon), and Phunam (born 1974, Saigon). Its work has been featured in the Goteborg International Biennial for Contemporary Art, Sweden; the 56th Venice Biennale; Prospect.3: Notes for Now, International Contemporary Biennial, New Orleans; No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Unseen: Guangzhou Triennial, Guangdong Museum of Art, China; Six Lines of Flight, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Made in LA, Los Angeles Biennial, Hammer Museum; and The Ungovernables, New Museum, New York. Recent solo projects include A Universe of Collisions at Grand Arts, Kansas City, Missouri, and The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh.

The exhibition has been organized by Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and Phoenix Art Museum.

The Propeller Group is made possible by generous support from the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, Tad and Jackson Freese, the Asian Cultural Council, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Additional support is provided by Lucia Cha and Dr. Jerrold Hiura, Grace Liu and Thang Do, Ian Reinhard, and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

Photo courtesy of the organizer/s.

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