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The Work of Nguyen Cam


BLUE NIGHT, RED EARTH The Work of Nguyen Cam

“ Ma façon d’utiliser ces matériaux exprime la liberté et selon les périodes que mes sentiments me guident. Par exemple: les papiers captifs me rappellent les âmes errantes,les sacs de riz des périodes de guerre et des blessures du passé . . .”

My way of using these materials expresses freedom, and corresponds to times that my feelings guide me. For example: found papers remind me of errant souls, sacks of rice remind me of periods of war and wounds from the past . . . Nguyen Cam





Marianne Rosenberg



Dr. Nora A. Taylor, School of the Art Institute of Chicago





Rosenberg & Co.




Blue Night Tryptich, 2014 Dรณ paper and oil on canvas 7.87 x 23.6 in.


INTRODUCTION I first encountered the artwork of Nguyen Cam with admiration for its unique fusion of creative influences, and it was a great privilege to visit his studio located outside of Paris. The canvases I saw there emanated energy; color and composition swelled to a crescendo that only the texture of his mixed media could maintain. Cloth from recycled rice sacks is layered with sand, cardboard, and oil paint, and while his artwork evokes elemental feelings, Cam speaks of specific emotional references: deep reds express both passion and nostalgia for the working-class districts of Hanoi; halcyon blues denote serenity, evening, and winter; his ochres are as pure pigment, straight from the autumn leaves on his street. Internationally recognized with exhibitions in Paris, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Washington, D.C., Brussels, and Barcelona, it is with great pleasure that Rosenberg & Co. presents Blue Night, Red Earth, Nguyen Cam’s first solo show in New York City. This exhibition has been long in the making, and it would not have been possible without the support of Suzanne Lecht and Art Vietnam Gallery. She has championed Nguyen Cam for two decades, and I am thrilled to work with her to bring Cam’s paintings to New York. Marianne Rosenberg 9

NGUYEN CAM, A VIETNAMESE ARTIST OF THE WORLD To understand Nguyen Cam’s place in art history, it is important to view him as an artist of diaspora, one of millions of overseas Vietnamese living around the world. This aspect of his identity helps to inform our understanding of the structures that form Vietnamese art history. From the Nam Tiến, or Southward expansion out of the Red River Delta region of North Vietnam— the cradle of Vietnamese civilization—starting in the eleventh century, to the maritime exodus of the hundreds of thousands of Boat People following the end of the decades-long war in South Vietnam in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Vietnam has a long history of population displacement. For many Vietnamese, “home” has been synonymous with loss. The manifold geographical locations in which Vietnamese artists find themselves make for an often-fragmented art history—an art history that resides more in the minds of the artists than in their land. For an artist who left his homeland for socio-political and economic reasons, looking back at the artistic culture that he left behind is inevitable. Vietnam is a country rich with craft traditions and an artistic heritage that is often overshadowed by images of war and devastation. For centuries, Vietnamese villages stood as sites of cultural production with skilled artisans who used 10

sophisticated techniques and the rich bounty of natural resources that the land offers. During the French colonial period, the locus of art shifted with urbanization and the founding of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts de l’Indochine in 1925, which introduced Western techniques of easel painting and life drawing. After Vietnamese independence in 1945, and the relocation of the school in the hills of Viet Bac—the seat of the anti-colonial resistance movement— most artists invested their skills in realistic painting to craft patriotic images of the nation. This period coincided with Cam’s departure from Vietnam. In the following decades, while his compatriots were fighting on the front lines or making art amidst the sound of falling artillery, Cam navigated his position as a refugee first in Laos, and then in Paris, where he was able to study at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts de Paris. Away from Vietnam, he could turn to the land that he left behind as a source of creativity and tranform memories into subject matter. Despite the inevitable pain of being uprooted, detachment from his country gave Cam tremendous freedom and allowed him to escape some of the constraints that were imposed on the artists who stayed behind. After 1954, artists in the North were subject to close monitoring for their patriotic activities and ideological leanings. Abstract art, for example, was forbidden until the economic opening, or Doi Moi, in 1990. Artists in the South, on the other hand, until reunification in 1975, had begun experimenting with modernist techniques of abstraction, which they also later had to abandon. 11

For some, such as Nguyen Trung, born in 1940, adopting an abstract style did not mean abandoning his Vietnamese roots. On the contrary, like Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), founder of the Santiniketan art school in West Bengal, who thought modernism to reside within Indian culture, Trung and others saw affinity between pan-Asian Calligraphic traditions, Buddhist philosophy and European modernism. Cam and Trung met in 1990 when Trung traveled to France on the invitation of the Union of Vietnamese in France. At that time, Cam lived in Sartrouville, a suburb north of Paris and had not yet had the opportunity to return to Vietnam. He and Trung became fast friends and, for a while, shared a studio. Cam introduced Trung to museums and art spaces in Paris, while Trung offered Cam a reconnection with Vietnam. In 1994, when Cam was finally able to return to his homeland, he found a country in flux, with a newly flourishing economy and artistic scene. The time that he spent abroad suddenly came into perspective; his past and present fused in unexpected and productive ways. Cam discovered, or rediscovered, votive paper used in temple ceremonies, Chinese calligraphic scripts adorning Confucian shrines, and discarded or repurposed rice sacks left on village roads. Silver leaf, lacquer, gold, and bamboo became material inspirations for his paintings, like a collage of memories grafted onto the contemporary art that he had fallen in love with in France.


One would be loath to call Cam’s work nostalgic, but rather a reflection of this coming together of seemingly disconnected parts of his life: France and Vietnam. His paintings are poetic transferences of scripts and muted colors, gold leaf upon red soil, a reflection on the impact of time on land and memory. They evoke a singular sensibility toward the history of Vietnam, even as they speak universal truths about the human inner spirit, its ties to home, and its position in the world. While Vietnamese art history has a tendency to exclude diasporic artists from its pantheon, Nguyen Cam’s paintings fit right at home beside all of the illustrious works hanging in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City’s Art museums. One may even say that he epitomizes or exemplifies the true Vietnamese artistic experience: the constant flow of cultural, linguistic, and geographic influences that permeate artistic production in beautiful and profound ways. Dr. Nora A. Taylor School of the Art Institute of Chicago


By Soul and Spirit II 2003

Votive papers, oil, Dรณ paper, and ginkgo leaf on canvas 47.25 x 47.25 in. 120 x 120 cm



Calligraphic Landscape 2003

Votive papers, oil, and Dรณ paper on canvas 66 x 55 in. 165 x 140 cm



The Ocean 2005

Oil and Dรณ paper on canvas 38.2 x 51.2 in. 97 x 130 cm



Unknown IV 2005

Oil and Dรณ paper on canvas 38.2 x 51.2 in. 97 x 130 cm



Texas Dreams IX 2005

Dรณ paper, oil, and sand on canvas 35.4 x 35.4 in.



Seaweed I 2005

Oil and Dรณ paper on canvas 39.4 x 31.9 in. 100 x 81 cm



Untitled IV 2006

Mixed media on canvas 23.5 x 23.5 in. 59.7 x 59.7 cm



Untitled IX 2006

Cardboard and oil on canvas 12.6 x 12.2 in. 32 x 31 cm



Untitled X 2006

Cardboard and oil on canvas 12.2 x 11.8 in. 31 x 30 cm



Untitled III 2006

Votive papers, oil, and Dรณ paper on canvas 23.6 x 23.6 in. 60 x 60 cm



Space and Earth I 2006

Used rice sacks, Dรณ paper, and oil on free canvas 63 x 39.4 in. 160 x 100 cm



Calligraphic Signs and Earth 2006

Used rice sacks, Dรณ paper, and oil on free canvas 63 x 39.4 in. 160 x 100 cm



Wandering Souls–III 2007

Votive papers, oil, Dó paper, and tea bags on canvas 67 x 55 in. 165 x 140 cm



As time goes by #7 2007

Used rice sacks, votive papers, oil, Dรณ paper, and ginkgo leaf on canvas 39.4 x 39.4 in. 100 x 100 cm



Untitled #5 2010

Cardboard and oil on canvas 7.5 x 11 in. 19 x 28 cm



Untitled #20 2010

Cardboard and oil on canvas 11.5 x 11.5 in. 29.2 x 29.2 cm



Imprints 2 2011

Dรณ paper and oil on canvas 15.75 x 15.75 in. 40 x 40 cm



Imprints 5 2011

Dรณ paper and oil on canvas 15.75 x 15.75 in. 40 x 40 cm



Imprints 8 2011

Dรณ paper and oil on canvas 15.75 x 15.75 in. 40 x 40 cm



Beginning of Winter 2012

Dรณ paper and oil on canvas 31.9 x 39.4 in. 81 x 100 cm



Blue Night Triptych 2014

Dรณ paper and oil on canvas 7.9 x 23.6 in. 20 x 60 cm 54


Mountain 2014

Dรณ paper, cardboard, and oil on canvas 15.75 x 15.75 in. 40 x 40 cm



Reflection 2014

Dรณ paper, cardboard, and oil on canvas 11.8 x 11.8 in. 30 x 30 cm




The work of Nguyen Cam is saturated: earthy color and texture are densely layered onto canvas in emotive formations that defy categorization. Cardboard, recycled rice sacks, glue, sand, and oil paint combine in unexpected shapes, the material rising from the canvas in alternating grit and sheen. Somehow, this density does not create a visual heaviness— worked into the layers are careful expanses of negative space, and the oftensimple forms seem to levitate with animate intensity. Cam’s saturation manifests calm power, and the surprising balance of color, figure, and material feels both ancient and highly contemporary. Works such as Untitled III and Blue Night Triptych (pages 33 and 54) can be placed in conversation with young mixed media artists such as Carmen Argote and Brian Belott, who combine everyday, culturally-significant objects into innovative assemblages. Other works such as Imprints 2, 5, and 8 (pages 47–51) recall traditional practices of calligraphy, even as they shun convention. While Cam trained as a figurative artist, he now disregards formal training: “I refuse to learn the calligraphic art and its codified rules,” he says: “knowledge would stop my hand.” 60

Created within the last two decades, the works included in Blue Night, Red Earth: The Work of Nguyen Cam exemplify the mature style Cam has found after a lifetime of experimentation. Born in 1944 in Haiphong, one hundred kilometers from Hanoi, Cam grew up in a family supportive of the arts: the head of his father’s household had been a painter, and his mother, educated in Confucian philosophy, belonged to the “bourgeoisie.” A few months after Cam was born, however, the house that his architect father had designed was destroyed by bombshells. As the French faught destructively to retain control of Indochina, Cam’s early years fluctuated between degrees of precarity due to the colonialist conflict. His family relocated to Saigon after the 1954 Geneva agreement, and in 1958, they emigrated to Laos. To supplement his father’s income, Cam began selling drawings and paintings in French cafés, and he quickly gained steady patronage. The works from this period drew from the Impressionists—Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, and particularly Paul Gauguin—but Cam soon realized the intellectual limits of this profitable form of art. He studied, read critical reviews of Marc Chagall, Joan Miró, Bernard Buffet, and other artists in Paris, and kept up with the burgeoning scene in Vietnam: Philippe Franchini had recently opened the Dolce Vita gallery in Saigon, showing emerging figures such as Nguyen Trung. Cam’s work began to attract attention in Laos, and thanks to the patronage of an American diplomat 61

and the subsequent support of the Lao Red Cross, he had the opportunity to exhibit in Bangkok. Even as his success in Vientiane grew, however, Cam recognized that Laos lacked the resources that would enable him to grow as an artist. In 1969, Cam applied to l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He was accepted, and the Bangkok exhibition supplied him the necessary funds to travel to France. § “I am trying to achieve a sort of melting pot between the two cultures of mine— and I insist on the plural aspect—which is up to the viewer to decipher. I definitely refuse to be singled out as Vietnamese. I can work anywhere.” —Nguyen Cam In Paris, Cam quickly caught up on the developments and machinations of European art. Coming from his studies in Impressionism, he was drawn to the historical range of figurative painting. “As everything was new to me,” Cam said of this time, “I enjoyed almost everything: Ingres and de la Tour for their almost perfect rendering, de Chirico for his daydream atmosphere, not to mention so many others. . . . Yet I was not able to get into the abstract approach of the seventies. Had I been able to do so, I would have certainly studied with Singier rather than with ChapelainMidy.” His early work was markedly apolitical; his politics only became overt with his 1973 participation in Cris et couleurs, an exhibition at the 62

Espace Cardin in Paris in support of the Vietnamese Boat People. During his four years at l’Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Cam participated in the Salon d’Automne, the Société des Artistes Français, and was awarded the Prix de l’Académie des Beaux-Arts. Although Cam had considered returning to Vietnam, it became impossible in 1975: the VietCong captured Saigon, and Cam’s support of the Boat People precluded his reentry into the country. So Cam stayed, living in the south of France and honing his skills in figuration, and in 1976, France granted him citizenship. Shortly after, Cam had his first solo exhibition in Paris at the Hélène Appel gallery, followed by shows at Sala d’Art Madie in 1978, and La Sensitive gallery in 1981 and 1983. In 1987, Cam left the countryside and returned to Paris. In his smaller urban studio, he finally began dismantling his practice of figuration. Cam worked assiduously to refine his new abstract practice. He began incorporating collage and mixed media into the works almost immediately, and many of the materials have remained in use: rice paper, sand, adhesive. Galerie Bellint, the gallery of André Lanskoy, Camille Bryen, and Michel Humair, decided to show Cam’s new abstract works and the exhibition gained traction. In an interview from the time, Cam explained his dramatic change in style, speaking in a characteristic third person: “He had foreseen the necessity of breaking away from representing the 63

body without abandoning its presence. Or, perhaps one should say, its pregnancy . . . Everything happens as if the territory of the verb frames that of thought, more neutral, emancipated from the visible.” In 1994, after the Vietnamese government had loosened its cultural policies, the Ho Chi Minh Fine Arts Association invited Cam to Saigon to exhibit his work. Cam was fifty years old—it had been thirty-five years since he had left Vietnam as a refugee—and though he returned to the country with curiosity and fear, the exhibition was a success. Crucially, however, this return to Vietnam honed Cam’s material and palette. During the installation of the show, he was struck by the material used for wrapping— thick, rough, and heavily-patched cloth that had originally been used by UNESCO and had since been recycled into art handling supplies. Immediately, Cam saw it as a potential medium. He set up a temporary studio and began cutting, patching, and adding sand from the Phan Thiet beach, and glue to roughen the fabric even further. He did away with frames and stretchers, favoring accidents, quickness, and un-aestheticized intuition. “I felt the material would set me free from too elaborate of a composition process and allow emotion to play its part,” Cam said of this discovery. “I shifted from the filter of elaborated thinking to spontaneity. You can imagine how excited I was before such a prospect. The way I am working today is rooted there.” Cam’s return solidified and deepened his nascent abstract practice, and more exhibitions in Vietnam followed: Red 64

River Gallery in 1995, Saigon Gallery in 1996, and Nam Gallery in 1997. Upon the invitation of the French Embassy, Cam began a contemporary art workshop in Hanoi, where he became close with Olivier Debré, who was working on a project for the Hanoi Opera. Commissions and exhibitions became steady (see more exhibitions on page 71), but Cam eventually returned to live in France, saying, “Living [in Vietnam] helped me understand who I am, but it also became clear that I am at home in France. This is where my friends are, this is where I learned and where I built.” § One can identify three distinct periods in Nguyen Cam’s international career: his figurative period of the sixties in Vietnam and Laos, and the seventies and eighties in Paris; then, an initial exploration into abstraction, in which Cam’s study of Tachisme is evident; and finally, the style that arose out of his return to Vietnam, which the critic Arnault Tran named a “victory over formalism.” This “victory”—over the rules of first figuration, and then geometric abstraction—also refers to a profound release: Cam stopped planning his work, and allowed himself to be entirely guided by intuition. The relationship Cam had with Debré illuminates the intuitive process of his work. While both artists are inspired by landscapes and urban 65

topographies, Debré’s work is concerned with the systematic use of symbolism and the possibility of universal signs; Cam, however, disregards any notions of formal signs or concepts. “I respond to an interior impulse, and I cannot impose interpretations,” he says. The titles of Cam’s work provide insight into the impulses, and the material and compositional qualities of each work are rich with suggestion. In As time goes by #7 (page 41), cloth, corrugated cardboard, and a ginkgo leaf convene in the exact center of the square canvas. Compositionally halving the canvas on the horizontal plane, Cam also creates a distinct grid—the lower half of the work is split into quadrants, but also employs the rule of thirds in its placement of the base-like structure. This base— perhaps serving as a plinth or altar—occurs in many of Cam’s works. Its form is emphasized by rough, painted textile, and in light of its texture and positioning, the base seems to occupy a terrestrial plane that differs markedly from the calligraphic stripes painted above the central horizon line. “There is no need to decipher anything,” Cam says of his work. While Cam may deny formal symbolism, the ginkgo leaf is a fascinating recurring motif and he utilizes its potential meaning: during a trip to Hiroshima, Cam learned that the ginkgo was the first tree to grow back after the atomic bomb. “Since then,” he says, “I have considered the ginkgo to be the symbol of eternity. Time passes but eternity remains forever, like art.”


Cam’s later body of work is unlike that of his Vietnamese contemporaries, who have largely focused on figurative painting and, more recently, installation and performance. Despite his consistent use of identifiably Vietnamese materials and colors, Nguyen Cam’s work in some ways has more in common with the mixed media paintings of Anselm Kiefer than with the contemporary figurative work of most artists working in Hanoi. For decades, Keifer has grappled with post-World War II German identity, confronting his country’s socio-political history by interrogating how collective memory is culturally constructed. Drawing his themes from Germany’s topography, architecture, mythology, and visual art traditions, Keifer incorporates found materials from nature onto his canvases, including dried flowers, ash, glass, sand, and straw, radicalizing the tradition of landscape painting as an allegory for the human condition. With politically charged symbols in mournful colors that evoke charred, desolate countryside, his politically provocative works build on the tradition of Joseph Beuys and the German Neo-Expressionists, implicating the native forces that established a legacy of nationalist violence and historical trauma. Some of Kiefer’s most frequently used materials, particularly straw and dried flowers, represent seemingly contradictory states—detritus and renewal, death and energy—and seem to mirror Cam’s material experimentations using gingko leaves and cardboard, as well as his color 67

selection. Unlike Kiefer, however, Cam does not aim to excavate a nation’s collective trauma; rather, he focuses on constructing the individual experience of memory, exile, and return. Cam states that, “[b]ringing concepts to the fore is not part of my Asian culture. Feeling, emotion, and impulse belong to my vocabulary.” He continues: “Although I do not mind talking about intuition or sentiment, and I know it does not play in favor of the recognition of my work, it does however reflect my own and proper reality. I respond to an interior impulse, though I cannot impose interpretations.” While Cam’s material experimentation situates his body of work in a global contemporary art context and conveys particular aspects of the experience of memory, his sense of color brings his predominant themes of time, water, and earth into focus. Discussing his use of color, Cam recalled “a foreign journalist [who] found it amazing I should not use green, which was to him [the journalist] emblematic of Vietnam.” Instead, Cam has found his own repertoire of colors. He uses transcendent blues which draw the viewer into a state of meditative contemplation, and gesture back through time toward Cam’s upbringing in the port city of Haiphong: “In my work, water is predominant and responds to a necessity.” The blues of the night sky and of water are complemented by vibrant, compositionally nuanced use of reds. Of his early attraction to red in the 68

1990s, Cam says, “To me, red meant energy. It also referred to the brown and ochre hues which were characteristic of the working-class districts [of Hanoi]. Above all, I made the choice of red for its natural proximity to the rice bag cloth.” Occupying a unique place as visionary in both Vietnamese and European contemporary art, Nguyen Cam works with an abstract visual language that is unmistakably his own. With this distinct aesthetic identity, forged through a fusion of history, intuition, and spontaneity, the works in Blue Night, Red Earth reflect Nguyen Cam’s exceptional commitment to authenticity and innovation. Rosenberg & Co. New York Spring 2020


WORKS REFERENCED Taylor, Nora. Painters in Hanoi: An Ethnography of Vietnamese Art. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2004. Tran, Arnault. Nguyen Cam, From Hanoi to Paris: A Painter’s Odyssey. Paris: Alternatives, 2004. Tran, Arnault. “Nguyen Cam, des blocs de silence.” Cimaise no. 231-32 (September-October 1994).


SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS 2020 2014 2013 2010 2007

2006 2005


2003 2002


1999 1998

1997 1996

1995 1994


Blue Night, Red Earth, Rosenberg & Co., New York Imprints of Origin: 20 Year Retrospective Exhibition, Art Vietnam Gallery, Hanoi Empreintes, Victoria’s Gallery, Paris Traces, Art Vietnam Gallery, Hanoi As Time Goes By, Art Vietnam Gallery, Hanoi Centre Ianchelevici, Maisons-Laffite, France Maison de L’Indochine, Paris Galerie d Art Pilar Riberaygua, Andorra, Spain Landscapes of the Soul, Fielding Lecht Gallery, Austin, Texas Wind and Tide, Le Musee des Jacobins, Ville de Morlaix, France Music of Silence, Art Vietnam Gallery, Hanoi Galerie Allaire-Aigret, Paris Spirit Harvest, Robert Mondavi Winery, St. Helena, California Galerie Allaire-Aigret, Paris Galeria d’Art Les Punses, Barcelona, Spain Galeria Pilar Riberaygua, Andorra, Spain Maison Francaise, Embassy of France, Washington D.C. Arts of Pacific Asia, New York City Roots, Galerie Nam Son, Hanoi Saigon Gallery, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Traces of a Meditation, Red River Gallery Hanoi Fine Arts Association Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Galerie Bellint, Paris Bartech Society, Paris 71

1991 1990 1986



1982 1981 1979

1978 1976 1974

Galerie Nicole Janssens, Brussels, Belgium Galerie Pomone, Bois-le-Roi, France Le Portail a Roulettes, Salses, France Galerie Sant-Vicens, Perpignan, France Galerie Therese Roussel, Perpignan, France Galerie La Sensitive, Paris Galerie Sant-Vicens, Perpignan, France Galerie La Sensitive, Paris Galerie Soler-Casamada, Tarassa, Spain Sala d’Art Madei, Barcelona, Spain Galerie Helene Happel, Paris Galerie La Main de Fer, Perpignan, France SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS


2009 2001




A Century of Collage, Rosenberg & Co., New York Hanoi: Where We Are Now, Art Vietnam Gallery, Hanoi Galerie Allaire-Aigret, Paris Artist in residence, Centre d Art Contemporain, St. Colombe, France Un train pour l’art contemporain, Institut de Recherche du Language Plastique, Brussels, Belgium Art Placement International 717, New York Pacific Bridge Gallery, Oakland, California ART Santa Fe, Santa Fe, New Mexico About Asia, Centre d’Art Passerelle, Brest, France A Winding River, Meridian International Center, Washington D.C.

Museum of the Fine Arts School, Hanoi Passage, Alliance Francaise de Hanoi, Hanoi Spring Meeting, Galerie Nam Son, Hanoi 1996 Galerie Trang An, Hanoi Galerie Bellint, Paris 1995 Connection with Vietnam, Espace Ricard, Paris 1993 Galerie Bellint, Paris Biennale, Ouville L’Abbaye, France Century Gallery, Westminster, California 1991 Galerie Nicole Janssens, Brussels Associations House, Forum des Halles, Paris 1990 Katia Lacoste Gallery, San Jose, California 1989 Galerie Pomone, Bois-le-Rois, France 44 artists for the French Revolution, Palais des Congres, Perpignan, France 1986 French Institute, Barcelona, Spain Galerie Alpha, Brussels, Belgium 1985 Prestige du Roussillon, Hanover, Germany 1973–84

Mayor’s Office, Brest, France Mayor’s Office, Quimper, France Maison de la Culture, Cergy-Pontoise, France Groupe Sansui, Tokyo, Japan Cry and Color, Espace Cardin, Paris Art in Yvelines, Versailles, France Culture Forum, Bonn Center, Germany 73

Created to accompany the exhibition

Blue Night, Red Earth: The Artworks of Nguyen Cam Spring 2020 Š Rosenberg & Co. Edition of 300 All images courtesy of Nguyen Cam and Art Vietnam Gallery Design by Rosenberg & Co. Printed by Puritan Capital, Inc.

The surprising balance of color, figure, and material in Nguyen Cam’s work manifests as both ancient and highly contemporary. Earthy color and texture are layered onto canvas in emotive formations that defy categorization: cardboard, recycled rice sacks, glue, sand, and oil paint combine in unexpected patterns, and this density of material embodies calm power. Born in Vietnam in 1944, Cam has lived in Paris since 1969. While some of his abstract oeuvre can be placed in conversation with young mixed media artists, others recall traditional practices of calligraphy—even as they shun convention. He disregards formal training, saying “I refuse to learn the calligraphic art and its codified rules,” he says: “knowledge would stop my hand.” Created within the last two decades, the works included in the exhibition Blue Night, Red Earth: The Work of Nguyen Cam exemplify the mature style Cam has found after a lifetime of experimentation.

Profile for Rosenberg & Co.

Blue Night, Red Earth: The Work of Nguyen Cam  

The surprising balance of color, figure, and material in Nguyen Cam's work manifests as both ancient and highly contemporary. Earthy color a...

Blue Night, Red Earth: The Work of Nguyen Cam  

The surprising balance of color, figure, and material in Nguyen Cam's work manifests as both ancient and highly contemporary. Earthy color a...

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