Tomas Vu

The Fifth Season

September 14 - October 20, 2018

Opening reception: September 14, 2018 7-9pm

Tomas Vu, Speak To Me/Breathe, 2016, Mixed media on wood panel, 84 x 96 x 2 in

Eschatology: The department of theological science concerned with ‘the four last things’: death, judgment, heaven, and hell.

(Oxford English Dictionary)

Fredric Snitzer Gallery is pleased to present The Fifth Season, by Tomas Vu – the artist's first solo exhibition at the gallery. Featured in the main exhibition space is a comprehensive range of work from large scale paintings to a series of prints, and intricately etched surfboards. Also included in the exhibition is an expansive outdoor installation of individually glazed ceramic skulls.

Tomas Vu’s work investigates the possibilities, images, and spaces that make up contemporary eschatological narratives. He proposes a vision of a world in which the crises of late capitalism and the historical drama of redemption are signaled by a traumatized physical environment. This futuristic landscape is informed by the technological and post-industrial advances of man: deeply in tune to the impacts, both positive and negative, of these innovations, Vu play with the roles of man and machine and the waning boundary between the two. The work is ultimately a protest against the destruction of our planet and our humanity.

Vu employs a visual idiom of constructed, layered and disturbed spaces populated with industrial detritus, efficient technologies of war, and tangles of organic and anthropomorphic forms. The works show swampy, overgrown environments where natural and distorted objects sprawl across space, interrupted by forms suggesting debris of industrial weaponry, crystallized water-towers and power plants, and elaborate Buckminster Fuller-like geometric shapes. The works struggle to delimit imaginary gravity-less spaces by tying a string that will connect the visual imagination with the endangered, constellated spaces of memory and thought. 

As a consequence, the works are free, wide and cosmological in scale. The compositions are de-centered: the activity is thrown to the periphery, suggesting a moment in which order and chaos seem to hang in the balance. Dense passages of line create complex networks and spatial relationships, and evoke impossible spaces saturated with disordered and conflicting information. The imagery is drawn from a variety of media – a personal inventory equally scavenged and appropriated: natural history catalogues, botany encyclopedias, maps, Soviet space photographs, math textbooks, astrophysical diagrams, blueprints, Arabic mosaics, Pennsylvania water towers, pattern-books, children’s stories and newspaper clippings. The images are arranged according to a visual syntax that is equally suggestive of dreamscapes as of satellite imagery of the cosmos.

By using printmaking as a primary method, Vu creates a vocabulary of symbols that appear and reappear throughout the works. Thus, the viewer must constantly recalculate their reactions, comb the work for various readings, and be surprised.  The technology of mechanical reproducibility, largely known for static, commercial imagery, and is thus engaged instead to express fluidity of signification, endowing each drawing with fluidity, context, and a narrative to be supplied by the viewer. 


Tomas Vu-Daniel (b. Saigon, Vietnam) received a BFA from the University of Texas, El Paso, and an MFA from Yale University. He has been a professor at Columbia University School of the Arts since 1996, when he helped found the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies. In 2000, he was appointed the LeRoy Neiman Professor of Visual Arts. Since its inception, Vu-Daniel has served as Director/Artistic Director of the Neiman center.

Vu-Daniel received a Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship award in 2001, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002, and a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Artist Award in 2017. Vu-Daniel participated in the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program in 2015 and received the Audience Award for Best Artist and residency at the 30th Biennial of Graphic Arts Ljubljana in 2016 and the 2018 Arts/Industry Residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. He has had solo exhibitions at Milwaukee Institute for Art and Design (1998), Museum Haus Kusaya, Yokuska (2001), Centro Colombo Americano, Bogotá (2012), the China Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing (2015), Vargas Museum, Manila (2017), and CHAOS, Tokyo (2018), both in collaboration with Rirkrit Tiravanija. Vu-Daniel will have a solo show at XC.HuA Galleries, Berlin (2018). Vu-Daniel has participated in numerous group shows including Organische Abstraction at Wilhem Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen (2006), Orpheus Selection: In Search of Darkness at MoMA PS1, New York City (2007), Boston High Tea: Master Print Series at Sunshine Museum, Songzhuang (2008), Contemporary Prints at Today Art Museum, Beijing (2009), Ten Years of Process and Collaboration 1998-2008 at Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing (2009), The American Contemporary Printing Exhibition at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, that traveled to the Shanghai Art Museum, Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, and Guan Shanyue Art Museum, Shen Zhen (2010), Draw: Mapping Madness at Inside Out Art Museum, Beijing, that traveled to Dali Contemporary Art Museum (2014), Draw|Boston at the Massachusetts College of Art Bakalar & Paine Galleries (2017), Occupy Mana and Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society has the Capacity to Destroy at Mana Contemporary, NJ (2017 – 2018), and many more. Vu-Daniel currently lives and works in New York, NY.


Photography by Zachary Balber