with Antonius-Tín Bui
Antonius-Tín Bui Carves Spaces for Diverse Histories in Their Meticulous Paper Artworks
Intricately cutting single sheets of paper by hand, Antonius-Tín Bui (previously) reveals intimate portraits of friends, family, and the diverse narratives that shape identity and community. The Vietnamese-American artist’s subjects are delineated by elaborate geometric and botanical patterns evocative of Southeast Asian decorative motifs and are often portrayed among clusters of traditional porcelain vases, some of which contain large voids as if a piece has broken off. Among the vessels and patterns, Bui details figures enmeshed in their surroundings as words and interiors tenderly acknowledge the queer Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Bui describes their identity as “ever-glitching” queer, non-binary, and Vietnamese-American, and as a child of refugees who immigrated to New York, they are interested in the narratives of displaced communities, the enormity of transition and transformation, and false dichotomies in geography, culture, and gender. The artist was struck by the focus that cultural institutions place on vessels—and Asian ceramics, in general—in their collections, confronted by the way that many Western museums have historically erased Southeast Asian cultural narratives, resulting in fragmented, siloed representation of an antiquated, overgeneralized Orientalist perspective of the past.
Pieces like “There’s Fluency in Forgetting,” which is part of a series of exploding vessels, mark the transformational nature of the passage of time, visualizing the relationship between past and present to construct what Bui describes as “hybrid identity and histories.” For each figure, the artist carefully carves the details of tattoos, jewelry, and messages that reveal aspects of their stories. Each work is a meditation on presence and absence, memories, inter-generational trauma, and beauty, “metaphorically carving out space for the narratives that are so often omitted from recognized histories.”
moniquemeloche will present a solo exhibition of Bui’s work at Independent Fair in New York next month, and you can see more on the artist’s website and Instagram.
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Monumental Cut Paper Portraits Celebrate the Fundamental Importance of Community and Friendship
Vietnamese-American artist Antonius-Tín Bui highlights the flexible, evolving nature of identity and the value of community through a series of unapologetically affectionate portraits. Elaborate hand-cut botanicals and geometric motifs envelop and give shape to Bui’s subjects, who include chosen and biological family members, friends, and colleagues. Painted in deep blue or inked in smaller spots to emit a warm glow, the pieces are monumental in scale—some extend upwards of 10 feet—and saturated with underlying stories that reveal themselves through smaller portraits and displays of domestic life embedded in the central image.
Continually focused on the power of narrative, Bui leaves gaps in the metaphorical, mesh-like works as a way to create space for more nuanced understandings of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, immigrant experiences, queerness, and the prevalence of false binaries. A child of Vietnamese refugees, they draw on their family’s heritage with “allusions to the spiritual significance of Joss paper, an incense paper used both to imitate value and as a form of blessings, position(ing) each work almost as an offering to honor queer communities,” a statement about the portraits says.
All of the works shown here are part of The Detour Is to Be Where We Are, which is on view through August 14 at moniquemeloche in Chicago. You can find more of Bui’s intimate pieces on their site and Instagram.
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Highlights below. For the full collection click here.