Mann Cave takes its inspiration from the designated room in a house where the man can ‘just be a dude.’ The stereotype of this ‘bachelor pad’ contains kitschy sports and hunting memorabilia, a large screen television, leather couches, pool tables and other games, and maybe even a wet bar. As the twisted title indicates, Nguyen also uses the writer Thomas Mann as a jumping point. Many of the works in the show, while playful, also hint at a troubled, darker side of existence and decay that characterize much of Mann’s work.
The lower level gallery of Art Virus is introduced to Nguyen’s installation at the threshold, where the regular door has been replaced by tall, swing-style saloon doors. When closed, the silhouette of a hanged man can be seen, cut out from the wood. A light beaming through this opening offers a paparazzi’s welcome. The source of this hallo is a small round spotlight embedded into the wall, painted with a mural of a black tunnel. The oncoming train, or something wicked, comes this way. Other works in the cave include half of a ping pong table butted up against the wall and a mirror, challenging the viewer to a self-reflexive game of one on one. Also of gaming intrigue is a dartboard cut to the shape of a Renaissance depiction of Saint Sebastian, who is always depicted with arrows piercing his body. The fanaticism of martyrdom also intersects sports in Nguyen’s velvet painting of a framed basketball jersey. Echoing Michael Jordan’s iconic Chicago Bull’s jersey, the player’s name is replaced with “AIR QAEDA.”
In other areas of the multi-level gallery, Nguyen will also exhibit selections from the “Library” series, whereby the artist has written literary works word for word on grains of rice, housed in mylar packets imprinted with the aesthetic of old library cards. “Library” works at Art Virus will include all ten of Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” and the first chapter of Mann’s “Death in Venice.”
Trong Gia Nguyen is a Brooklyn-based artist who has exhibited internationally in numerous exhibitions including solo gallery shows in New York, Berlin, and Ho Chi Minh City. Group shows include The Sixth Borough on Governors Island, Performa 05 in New York, Sequences Real Time Festival in Iceland, and the Havana Biennial. Nguyen has received grants from LegalArt Miami, Museum of Arts and Design (New York), Artist in Residency in the Everglades, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, Harvestworks Digital Media Center, Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Puffin Foundation.
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