The Propeller Group
Lived, Lives, Will Live!
September 12 – October 26, 2013
Vernissage: Thursday, September 12, 6-8 PM
Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles-based collective The Propeller Group—formed by
Phunam, Matt Lucero, and Tuan Andrew Nguyen in 2006—will open their debut solo
exhibition in the United States at Lombard Freid. Reinvigorating a once famous Leninist
slogan, Lived, Lives, Will Live!, the group’s new works are part of a larger practice
exploring the relationships between politics, celebrity culture, and collective histories.
Following close on the heels of the media frenzy surrounding Jay Z’s now infamous
“Picasso Baby” performance, TPG’s paintings, sculptures, and photographs form a
new strategy where hip-hop and Hollywood converge as historical and political
The rise of Communism in the twentieth century led to the erecting of statues of
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin around the world, making him the most monumentalized individual
in history. Lived, Lives, Will Live! reexamines the legacy of the revolutionary leader as
the unraveling of Communism has brought about the subsequent toppling of these
monuments. TPG’s works revive Lenin through a hyper-consumerist rebranding of his
public image for the twenty-first century.
Inaugurating an ongoing series of paintings, TPG have commissioned handembroidered
interventions on original painted portraits of Vladimir Lenin that once hung
in regional Communist Party headquarters across the U.S.S.R. With the addition of
various hairstyles spanning Leonardo DiCaprio’s filmography, the revolutionary leader
is equipped for contemporary superstardom. Drawing from Internet conspiracies about
DiCaprio’s being a lost relative of Lenin, the series addresses the political ramifications
of representation and celebrity idolatry. As culture blogs report that DiCaprio will play
Lenin in a rumored film, TPG will continue the series throughout the actor’s career until
the two figures are united in a Hollywood historical drama, collapsing history and
Additionally, TPG will embellish public monuments of Vladimir Lenin with jewelry as
grandiose as the statues themselves. Beginning with one of the first dismantled
monuments of Lenin—removed from Leninplatz, East Berlin in 1992—TPG plan to
acquire the head of the monument, plate it in gold, and hang it from an oversized
Cuban-link chain on the 27-meter tall Lenin statue in Volgograd Russia—the largest
remaining in the world. In preparation, the group has created a set of large scaled
architectural maquettes depicting the process of beheading, blinging, and installing the
transformed head of the Leninplatz sculpture.
The gold pendant, amplified to a monumental scale, references various methods of
portraying power throughout history—royal jewels, war medals, etc.—and the
appropriation of these tactics through the ostentation and exaggeration of hip-hop
culture. Alluding to diamond-encrusted Jesus pieces and rapper Rick Ross’s pendant
portraits of himself, TPG’s proposed monumental bling explores the border between
identity and ornamentation, tracing the malleability of personality in the public sphere.
TPG will also produce a series of photographs, imagining the blinged-out Volgograd
Lenin in its site-specific context. These digitally produced renderings highlight the
enormous scale of their proposal and reference the unrealized utopian plans of
Vladimir Tatlin and El Lissitzky. Pedestals around the gallery will hold jewelry-store
displays, showcasing human-scale gold-plated Lenin necklaces. Produced in an
edition of 5, these 3D printed necklaces blur the line between sculpture and jewelry,
transforming a public monument into reproducible, privately owned commodities.
The Propeller Group uses mass media as a platform to combine seemingly
contradictory phenomena: advertising and politics, history and future, and public and
private. TPG often pushes their work back into the public sphere, using commodities as
a form of public art. As an integral part of their practice, TPG has cultivated the guise of
an advertising agency—a public relations firm that confuses the brand and the brand
message. Their work has recently been included in No Country: Contemporary Art for
South and Southeast Asia at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, and
The Ungovernables, New Museum Triennial. TPG has also exhibited at The Museum of
Modern Art, The Hammer Museum, The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the
Guangzhou Triennial, and The Singapore Art Museum.