Dinh Q. Lê

Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return is the largest solo exhibition of the renowned Vietnamese-American artist’s work in the United States in more than a decade. Dinh Q. Lê features five major video and photography installations, including the installation Vision In Darkness: Trần Trung Tín (2015), which has never before seen in the US, and rarely seen photo-weavings from 2006. The exhibition highlights the artist’s ongoing experimentation in narrative and storytelling through multimedia documentary video and found photography installations. The exhibition is organized by San José Museum of Art’s (SJMA) associate curator Rory Padeken and will be on view at SJMA from September 14, 2018 through April 7, 2019. A 120-page illustrated catalogue, will be published by SJMA in conjunction with the exhibition.

“We are thrilled to bring internationally renowned artist Dinh Q. Lê’s work to Silicon Valley as part of our ongoing commitment to exhibitions that reflect the diversity of our community and the exciting and important work being done by contemporary artists,” says Sayre Batton, Oshman Executive Director at SJMA.

While Lê is best known for his unique photo-weavings—interlaced vertical and horizontal strips of documentary photographs and Hollywood film stills about the Vietnam War—this exhibition highlights his ongoing experimentations in video and photography installation. He explores themes of departure and return, the role of the artist during times of war, and reimagining symbols of American imperialism and recent histories of Vietnam through documentary videos and multichannel cinematic presentations, delicate watercolors and abstract paintings made by his artist/subjects, and architectural structures that comprise thousands of photographs abandoned by families fleeing from the ravages of war. Engaged with other Vietnamese voices and perspectives, Lê reshapes and generates new memories and images of the conflict by giving voice literally and metaphorically to those marginalized by history.

The exhibition includes Light and Belief: Voices and Sketches of Life from the Vietnam War (2012), a multimedia installation of 101 paintings and drawings with a documentary video with animation. Originally commissioned by documenta for dOCUMENTA 13, Light and Belief uncovers how northern Vietnamese artists were enlisted to fight in the war by sketching scenes at the battlefront. Vision In Darkness: Trần Trung Tín (2015), Lê’s sequel to Light and Belief, comprises six abstract paintings and a biographical documentary of artist Trần Trung Tín (1933–2008). The work examines Tran’s disillusionment with repressive government policies and the solace he found in creating abstract painting— resisting established artistic and social norms of the time. The exhibition will also feature Lê’s major architectural installation Crossing the Farther Shore (2014), constructed with thousands of found photographs abandoned by families fleeing from the conflicts of war; his earliest video works The Imaginary Country (2006) and The Farmers and the Helicopters (2006); and a selection of rarely-seen photo-weavings of flowers from the series “Tapestry” (2006).

“Lê entwines unknown narratives of war and migration from people in North Vietnam, the Vietnamese diaspora, and refugees who have recently returned to Vietnam,” says Padeken.

Published by SJMA, the fully illustrated exhibition catalogue will include documentation of the exhibition; a transcribed conversation between Dinh Q. Lê and Moira Roth, Trefethen Professor Emerita of Art History, Mills College, Oakland; and essays by Padeken and by Kieu-Linh Caroline Valverde, associate professor of Asian American Studies, University of California, Davis; and Nora A. Taylor, Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History, School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return is the fourth exhibition in SJMA’s ongoing series New Stories from the Edge of Asia, and the first of the series to represent the art of contemporary Vietnam. A tour of other US venues is planned.


Born in 1968 in Hà Tiên, Vietnam, Dinh Q. Lê and his family immigrated to the US in 1978. He received his BA in studio art from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1989 and MFA in photography and related media from The School of Visual Arts, New York, in 1992. He currently lives and works in Vietnam. Recent awards include a Rauschenberg Residency, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, New York (2016); Bellagio Creative Arts Fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation, New York (2014); Visual Art Laureate, Prince Claus Fund, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2010); and Artist-in-Residence, Tokyo Wonder Site Aoyama (2009). He has had solo exhibitions at such venues as Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2015); Rice Gallery, Houston (2014); The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2010); Bellevue Arts Museum Washington (2007); Asia Society, New York (2005); and The Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky (2000). His work is in the collections of Asia Society, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and San José Museum of Art.


Lunchtime Lecture
WED, OCT 3, 2018 | 12–1PM

Artist Dinh Q. Lê, featured in True Journey Is Return creates mesmerizing floral photo-weavings that entrance the viewer in a manner reminiscent of Zen-like meditative mandalas.  Our guest speaker further explores the emblematic flower by looking at the proven health effects of flowers in offering positive emotional and behavioral benefits to humans.

Lunchtime Lectures take place on the first Wednesday of the month at noon in the Charlotte Wendel Education Center. Visitors are welcome to bring food and beverages.
Free with Museum admission and to SJMA Members.

Gallery Talk: Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return 
THU, NOV 8, 2018 | 12:30PM

Tour the exhibition Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return with Rory Padeken, associate curator.
Free with Museum admission.

DIY Art: Festive Fun
SAT, NOV 17, 2018 | 1–3PM

Experiment with collagraph, a fun and simple printmaking technique, in this drop-in workshop. Design a striking, mixed media composition inspired by the work featured in Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return. All materials are provided.
Free with Museum admission. All ages welcome.

DIY Art: Festive Fun
SAT, DEC 8, 2018 | 1–3PM

Experiment with collagraph, a fun and simple printmaking technique, in this drop-in workshop. Design a striking, mixed media composition inspired by the work featured in Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return. All materials are provided.
Free with Museum admission. All ages welcome.

Stories from the Farther Shore: Southeast Asian Film
March 2019
Coinciding with the exhibition Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return, SJMA and the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco co-present Stories from the Farther Shore: Southeast Asian Film, a free program of approximately twelve films that will screen over a four-day period in March 2019. Showcasing recent documentary, short, artistic, and feature-length films by Southeast Asian filmmakers, topics range from transgender identity to the complexities of the diasporic experience. SJMA is also commissioning Robin Lasser, photographer and San José State University professor, to create a series of site-specific outdoor video projection mapping installations as part of her ongoing project Migratory Cultures. Titled Vietnamese Diaspora: San José Stories, Lasser is working with individuals from San José’s multi-generational Vietnamese-American community, video-recording their stories of migration to reveal a more nuanced narrative of the largest Vietnamese diaspora in the United States. Beginning in March 2019, her video portraits will be projection mapped at night onto SJMA’s building facade; onto trees in César Chávez Park in downtown San José; and at community gathering sites throughout the city. At a time of growing hostility to immigrant and refugee experiences in the US, the films and commissioned project in this program will join the exhibition in giving voice to complex, humanized stories of identity and homeland, loss and survival, and negotiating tradition and modernity.

This project is made possible with support from California Humanities, a partner of the NEH.

Organization and Funding
Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return is made possible in part by grant support from the Henry Luce Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Asian Cultural Council, and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation. The exhibition is sponsored by The Lipman Family Foundation, the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation, Tad Freese and Brook Hartzell, Lucia Cha and Dr. Jerrold Hiura, and Evelyn and Rick Neely. Additional support comes from Lisa and Keith Lubliner. In-kind support for equipment is provided by Genelec, NEC Display Solutions, and BrightSign.

About San José Museum of Art
The San José Museum of Art celebrates new ideas, stimulates creativity, and inspires connection with every visit. Welcoming and thought-provoking, the Museum rejects stuffiness and delights visitors with its surprising and playful perspective on the art and artists of our time. SJMA is located at 110 South Market Street in downtown San José, California. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 AM to 5 PM and until 8 PM or later on the third Thursday of each month. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $6 for students, and $5 for youth ages 7–18. Members and children ages 6 and under are admitted free. For more information, call 408.271.6840 or visit SanJoseMuseumofArt.org.

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Programs at the San José Museum of Art are made possible by generous operating support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Yvonne and Mike Nevens, a Cultural Affairs grant from the City of San José, and the Richard A. Karp Charitable Foundation.



Dinh Q. Lê: True Journey Is Return
The largest solo exhibition of Dinh Q. Lê’s work in the US.
September 14, 2018 through April 7, 2019

Written by San Jose Museum of Art

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