Wk. 10 – Artist Conversation – Tony Nguyen

Exhibition Info

Artist: Tony Nguyen

Exhibition: Neoteny

Media: Metals

Gallery: CSULB School of Art, Merlino Gallery

Website: Artist does not have a website

Instagram: elll_tigre

About the artist

Tony Nguyen is a fifth year CSULB artist in his last semester of the metal BFA program. After graduation, Tony plans to go back to community college to use their metal programs to strengthen his portfolio, which he said was required for him by graduate school. While in community college, he plans to work part-time and “get life rubbed over [himself]” while practicing his art. He describes himself as a metal smith rather than the more commonly known term blacksmith, as he likes to work with all different kinds of materials. Tony said that he wants to make functional objects with his art, which is reflected in the pieces. He also said that the pieces are inspired by his own philosophy, to create something if you want it, and by personal stories from his life.

Formal analysis

All of the pieces in the exhibit are made of metals. Tony said that he pulled inspiration from aspects of who he is. The first stand in the room has a red box that contains empty capsules inside of it and some open capsules around it on the outside, similar to a machine that you insert 25 cents into at the supermarket for a balloon or some candy. The stand behind the aforementioned one has three pieces: a black glove, a brown and gold forearm guard, and a crown with two long twisting horns. Another stand contains three more pieces: two silver chains that can be worn in different ways, a bronze forearm guard with a black decoration, and water house aimed at an actual plant in a small, silver bucket. A necklace with what resembles a face, some helmets, a ring, and a black piece that looks like a wavy half of a globe are on another stand. In the back of the room is a white mannequin. Around the mannequin are heavy, metallic figures with a caved in heart, and a transparent figure in the shade made by the mannequin. The mannequin is wearing a necklace with bridges and small feet made of metal.

Content analysis

Tony said that he was inspired by the Chinese and Vietnamese culture, the latter of which he says shares some culture with the former. Many of these pieces are inspired by his own personality traits. The figures by the mannequin all represent different aspects of who Tony presents himself as to the outside world. The one transparent figure in the shadows is representative of who people are on the inside before being exposed to the outside world. You can see through them, reflected by the transparency, as they are honest and not yet corrupted. The necklace adorned with bridges and feet around the mannequin’s neck represents Tony and his family. Each of the feet represents his brothers and himself, each one marked with a roman numeral indicating the order of which they were born. The bridges represent the story of how Tony’s parents fled their home for safety. They had to cross a bridge to leave for safer land, the United States. They barely made it across the bridges before the bridges were destroyed, meaning that Tony’s family narrowly avoided being stuck in danger. Many of the other pieces reflect how Tony feels about things like friendship and himself. The crown, for example, represents how he at times feels like he is a king. Meanwhile the plant, which he chose to have be a real plant, represents how he values what is real.

Synthesis / My Experience

I found this exhibit to be incredibly interesting. I enjoyed getting to learn about a different culture and the stories behind the art. Learning about Tony’s culture made me want to connect deeper with my culture and talk to my relatives to learn more about their stories. I loved the story about the necklace decorated with small bridges, which Tony said made his mom cry. I thought that the use of a real plant was incredibly interesting.  Tony talked about friendship when talking about the plant, how the plant relies on the water from the tower to keep it strong. I connected with how he valued what was real. The plant being real and standing for friendship made me think of the kinds of friendships that flourish, the kind that is real and honest and supportive. 

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