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Coming to America

Hanoi artist Dang Xuan Hoa arrived in the United States in mid- February, 1994, to begin a six-month artist in residence at the Indochina Arts Project (IAP). Mr. Hoa was chosen from a grope of artists whose work was sent to the IAP by the Hanoi Association of Plastic Artists.

The Indochina Arts Project is a non-profit organization established in 1983 to prompt understanding between the people of the United States and Vietnam. Its first major project was the internationally acclaimed exhibition As Seen by Both Sides at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Hanoi, January 1997. The show had already toured fourteen cities in the United States over the past three and a half years. The IAP continues to work on cultural exchanges between the United States and Vietnam, including exhibitions, video projects and artist exchanges.

Hoa feels privileged to be the first artist selected for this program as well as responsibility which has come with this. He expresses concerns that the latest invasion of three piece suits from the United States, although necessary for the economic well-being of his country, will cause an overpowering focus on commercial interests.

Hoa will return to Hanoi in August 1994 to have an exhibition of work completed while in the United States, as well as to share his experiences and thoughts with the other artists of Vietnam. He recently spoke with Nguyen Ba Chung in Boston.

What are the things which stand out in terms of your preconceptions of arts and life in the United States?

Life in Hanoi, at least to me, I like a quiet river, merndering on its own hurried speed. Here, [in the United States], things appear to run at full speed most of the time. There’s always something to do, schedules to keep, and work to be completed. I can send that rhythm in the world of arts which I have seen the energy, the license experiment, and the dedication to whatever artist want to say. American art fully reflects the vastness of an industrial society, its abundance of resources and careful experiment.

How do you see the artist in terms of society in Vietnam and the United States?

In terms of goals it is similar – the love and dedication to some artistic ideals. In terms of the means to realize them, there are substantial differences.
Today, again I am watching Hoa at work. There are scented tea and Chopin’s soul-stirring Noctumes to add flavor to my resting his painting gesture. In these recent art works of his, the emotional flow is more discreetly profound, the structural pattern more liberal, the coloring more diversified and richer in shades I know that recently Hoa has experienced uncertainties and questioned himself a lot. To him, the essential is neither this or that form nor a gleaning of individual bits of tradition (motifs from pagodas and communal houses, details of Buddha statues), but the challenging confrontation with his own problems to create art out of true inspirations from his own

Back from two visits to the United States, Hoa confessed: “To travel far in order to get closer to oneself to see people in order to better understand one, that is a lesson I draw from my two America tours. I find it necessary to reassess what we have so far taken for granted. Not a few Vietnamese artists have experimented with all forms of expression; however, in some of the more non-traditional attempts there seems to be something missing. At home, I did not figure this out. Only in coming to America, witnessing the art environment imbued with social character of this country, I finally realized what was missing: the heat of the actual social current”.

These cogitations seem to have been fermenting in Hoa’s recent work, Precursors of a new ripeness? I hope and am convinced of that.

Duong Tuong
Art Critic

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