Portals of Light from the Mountain and Night Sky, 2016 (detail).
Spray paint on folded paper, glass, solder, copper foil tape, paint on clay. Dimensions variable
First Light and Its Refracting Powers, 2014. Salt crystals, glass, copper tape, solder, collected vegetation, cyanotype, gelatin silver with salt crystals, spray paint on paper, meteorite dust on unprocessed photo paper, cyanotype on unprocessed photo paper. Dimensions variable
CHRISTINE NGUYEN: Deep Sympathies
Christine Nguyen's work offers up a version of interconnectivity that sometimes seems absent from our hyperconnected age. As Los Angeles buzzes with traffic and chatter, Nguyen looks to the ocean, the mountains, and the desert. Whether taking inspiration from the Salton Sea or the docks where her father worked as a fisherman, she creates worlds that evoke deep dives into the lowest reaches of the Pacific, paths carved through long walks in fields of sunflowers, or spelunking expeditions into the geodesic depths of the earth. All this immersion is won through an attention to what nature offers and how to bring together its seemingly disparate parts.
Nguyen's additive and intuitive process always results in wholes that are entirely at ease. Across her photographs and drawings, including those on view in the C.O.L.A. exhibition, salt crystals appear to grow out of Mylar, cyanotypes emerge and spread from the warp and weft of muslin cloth, and orb weavers' webs seem never to have not been colored after she has spray-painted them to black paper. It makes perfect sense that collecting constitutes a large part of her practice. Geodes, pinecones, coral, and samples of dirt and water from places near and far can be found in her studio, and sometimes, when the configuration of things seems right, are integrated into a sculpture or installation. There are no formulas here. Curiosity and wonder, above all, guide the artist as she works.
And they allow her to tap into a field long forgotten: early modern natural philosophy. For its practitioners—Robert Fludd, especially—the reverberations between microcosm and macrocosm were constant. Fludd's cosmology erased the border between art and science when he pictured the universe in order to know it, tested mercury to conjure the philosopher's stone, and—always, always—followed nature wherever it led. Nguyen shares the same spirit, the same trust in what nature imparts. Plants are her stencils. Meteorite dust, sunlight, and crystallized vegetation are among her media. As Nguyen weaves all of them together, they create sympathies of the deepest kind.
Born 1977, Mountain View, CA
Lives and works in Long Beach, CA
MFA, studio art, University of California, Irvine, 2004
BFA, photography, California State University, Long Beach, 1999
2016 The Cosmic Long Return, Baik Art, Los Angeles (solo)
2014 The Cosmos and the Sea, Galerie Quynh, Saigon, Vietnam (solo)
2014 Time, Space, and Matter: Five Installations Exploring Natural Phenomena, Pasadena Museum of California Art (group)
2011 Harmonic Cosmic Sea Waves, 10 Chancery Lane Gallery, Hong Kong (solo)
2011 Powers of the Cosmic Dusty Seas, Crisp-Ellert Art Museum, Flagler College, St. Augustine, FL (solo)
2008 Christine Nguyen: New Works, Michael Kohn Gallery, Los Angeles
2006 Hammer Projects: Christine Nguyen, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles
Dickover, Julie. "Narwhals, Salt, and Fractals: Christine Nguyen." At Length, November 2013.
Gördüren, Petra, and Dirk Luckow. Dopplereffekt: Bilder in Kunst und Wissenschaft. Kiel, Germany: Kunsthalle zu Kiel, 2010.
Miles, Christopher. "Darkness Falls, Abstraction Illuminates: Christine Nguyen at Michael Kohn Gallery." LA Weekly, February 22–28, 2008, 58.
Newhouse, Kristina. "Christine Nguyen." In Hammer Projects, 1999–2009, 304–7. Los Angeles: Hammer Museum, 2009.
Ollman, Leah. "Artist Christine Nguyen's Blueprints of Life: The Cosmos in Salt and Cyan." Los Angeles Times, March 13, 2016.
Pagel, David. L.A. Now. Las Vegas: Las Vegas Art Museum and Bright City Books, 2008.