Artist Tomas Vu Stages an Apocalypse at Fredric Snitzer Gallery

Artist Tomas Vu Stages an Apocalypse at Fredric Snitzer Gallery
Courtesy of Tomas Vu
Politically and environmentally, we’re living in dark times. Artist Tomas Vu embraces the darkness in his new solo show, "Tomas Vu: The Fifth Season," which opens at Fredric Snitzer Gallery tonight.

“'The Fifth Season' is about the apocalypse, the end of everything else when we’ve gone through all the cycles, and here we are after the doomsday scenario... The work is ultimately a protest against the destruction of our planet and our humanity,” says Vu, who's returned to Miami after showing a surfing and screenprinting installation with Rirkrit Tiravanija at Untitled Art Fair in 2016.

"The Fifth Season" consists of works in four concepts and mediums: 148 ceramic skulls, two functional surfboards, two large paintings, and six medium drawings of futuristic landscapes. Vu, who grew up in Vietnam during the war, is most excited to show the hand-cast and hand-painted ceramic skulls, which will be exhibited as an installation that leads to the backyard of the gallery. The project is a nod to his 2001 installation Killing Fields, where he cast more than 100 skulls in wax.

“Every skull is unique; there’s not a single one that’s the same. I made ten molds, and then I slipcast these, and by pulling out early or late, you create a different shape. Then they are hand-painted with glaze, which creates this uniqueness,” he says.

“I’m excited to see what [the skulls] will look like in the backyard. I heard there are chickens in Miami. We’re hoping that the neighbor’s chicken will come over, hang out, and live out there. If we have livestock nearby, let them live there. It’s about life. I don’t want to manicure it to be too precious.”
click to enlarge COURTESY OF TOMAS VU
Courtesy of Tomas Vu
Vu hopes to expand the ceramic skulls project and ultimately create an alternative version of the Vietnam War Memorial by making a landscape installation piece with 58,220 skulls, representing the number of American soldiers killed in the Vietnam War. He's working to find funding and sponsorship for the large-scale skull installation.

The artist understands the project will be long-term and labor-intensive. He admits, “I’m interested in art not in the moment but something that takes a decade to do. Everything is about time and how to look at it. I want to investigate time through time. Perhaps at the end, these futuristic visions I have aren’t so futuristic after all.”

Vu will return to Miami Art Week this year with collaborator Tiravanija, showing a modified version of their 2016 installation, Do We Dream Under the Same Sky, which will be exhibited again at Untitled Art Fair. The duo will re-create the T-shirt screenprinting booth, where Tiravanija curates the text and Vu chooses the images that are displayed on the garments. In 2016, the shirts boasted phrases such as “up against the wall motherfuckers” and “the days of this society is numbered,” paired with images of David Bowie, Ana Mendieta, and Joseph Beuys.

For this year's edition, Vu delcares with a chuckle that the text and images "will fit the times.”

"Tomas Vu: The Fifth Season." Opening reception 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, September 14, at Fredric Snitzer Gallery, 1540 NE Miami Ct., Miami; 305-448-8976; The show runs through October 20.
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth