Forever marked by the past

Today’s great artists are largely unknown by the general population.

Today’s great artists are largely unknown by the general population. Relegated to the backseat of the cultural landscape and virtually unknown to the populous, it’s a challenge for many to name one, two or even three artists that exhibit work in the international arena who are alive today.

No longer a society consumed by the creative wit of a painting or the provocative nature of photography, we’ve traded in the shock and awe of art for the cute, simple and polite. Where’s the controversy? Where are the rabble rousers? The bodies of work that will live on forever as memorabilia of this brief moment in a changing world seem to have slipped away with the passage of time.

Fortunately, there’s a duo that has taken on the task of honest expression through their work. Vietnamese artists Le Hong Thai and Nguyen Van Cuong have created some of the most compelling works of commentary to emerge out of the Rolodex of local art galleries in the recent past.

Both artists remain loyal to sharing the current story of their homeland which, since the end of the war, has been in the stronghold of modernity and western influence.

Where are they now? seeks to leave the viewer asking more questions rather than leaving with the answers. This is almost a protest against the American way of life by refusing to be yet another question which can so easily be typed into a web browser or pondered on Wikipedia.

Thai and Coung’s exhibit creates questions on the local scale relating to Vietnam as well as in the larger geographical realm of what our influence and impact on the world is. How has our heavy imprint on the globe changed other cultures, economies and political dynamics?

Hailing from Hanoi in North Vietnam, the artist’s city of residence was the official stomping grounds for the victorious Vietcong. A city forever scarred by its recent violent past, it has seen a remarkable turnaround from brutality and bloodshed to being recently named one of the top places to visit in 2010 by Frommer’s Guide Books.

Approaching the drawing board from two different artistic disciplines, Cuong uses ink and water coloring to create an exaggerated world known mostly to tweekers and Michel Gondry films. Thai on the other hand, creates his commentary on top of thousands of words written in newspapers by over-laying his view as pictures that incorporate the text and clips of other work, which amount to a bit of a collage.

There may never be another Van Gogh, Picasso or Monet, but is it possible that the tides are changing? It may seem that our world today is so much more muted than times of the past, but tumultuous events are more than violence. The injustice of insurgency, the uncontrollable force of globalization and the power of the west is changing the very foundations that have dominated world regions for centuries.

Within all of this, is it possible that the future of artistic prominence doesn’t lie within the confines of the cozy neighborhoods we know and love, but instead in the places still emerging, still recovering and still yet to be heard?