The Propeller Group
The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music
April 8–May 15, 2016
Opening: Friday, April 8, 6–8pm
291 Grand St
New York NY 10002
James Cohan is pleased to announce the opening of an exhibition by The Propeller Group, running from April 8 through May 15 at the gallery’s Lower East Side location. The exhibition presents the New York premier of The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music a film work originally created for Prospect.3 New Orleans biennial in 2014. Also on view is The AK-47 vs. The M16 presented at the Venice Biennale in 2015. This is the artist collective’s first exhibition at James Cohan.
Founded in 2006, The Propeller Group (TPG) is a collaboration between three multi-disciplinary artists based in Ho Chi Minh City and Los Angeles; Phunam, Matt Lucero and Tuan Nguyen. Their multimedia works use the languages of advertising and politics to initiate conversations about power, propaganda and manipulation, especially as they relate to fallen Communist dictatorships and the rapid rise of capitalism in Vietnam and beyond. TPG became well-known for their 2011 advertising parody Television Commercial For Communism, included in the New Museum’s Ungovernables 2012 Triennial exhibition. Consistently, their work crosses traditional lines between art and mainstream media. They explain, “We like to play. We align ourselves with different cultural producers. We like to let ourselves get ingested into the bellies of big social beasts such as television, advertising, or the various manifestations of pop-culture.”
Among the most celebrated works included in Prospect.3 New Orleans, The Living Need Light, The Dead Need Music (2014) borrows its title from a Vietnamese Buddhist proverb, which calls for the playing of “happy music” for the dead. The film, shown in the main gallery, follows two funeral processions led by jazz musicians and a cast of surreal characters including spiritual mediums, professional criers and street performers that turn the mourning ceremonies onto euphoric rites of passage. Tapping into the similarity between funeral processions in Vietnam and New Orleans—they are both led by brass bands—TPG explores, “the elusive butterfly effect—the theory of ‘non-locality,’ whereby two distinct phenomena affect each other across a vast expanse of space and time.”
In the back gallery, the work The AK-47 vs. The M16 (2015) explores the history of two assault rifles (Soviet-made and US-made) used during the Vietnam War. These almost identical weapons represent the philosophical paradox inherent in the notion of opposing sides, as during the Cold War and Vietnam War. In a highly controlled environment overseen by ballistics experts, an AK-47 and an M16 rifle were aimed at each other and triggered simultaneously to discharge their ammunition into a gelatinous block. The block is made specifically for ballistic testing to mimic the density of human tissue. The sculptures capture the moment of impact of the two bullets in what the artists refer to as the “stalemate of a moment…like a freeze frame.” The entire project is comprised of 21 unique sculptures each featuring a collision of two bullets inside a block and a video filmed at 100,000 frames per second.
In June 2016, TPG’s first survey exhibition will open at MCA Chicago and will travel to the Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, and the Phoenix Art Museum, AZ. The exhibition is curated by Naomi Beckwith and has an accompanying catalog.
International exhibitions include the Göteborg International Biennial, Sweden (2015); the 56th Venice Biennale (2015); Prospect.3, New Orleans (2014); Los Angeles Biennial (2012); New Museum Triennial (2012); and Guangzhou Triennial (2008).
TPG’s work is included in collections of the Guggenheim Museum, NY; MoMA, NY; LACMA, CA; Carnegie Museum, PA; New Orleans Museum of Art; Speed Museum, Louisville, KY; Queensland Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, AU; Burger Collection, Hong Kong; and Singapore Art Museum.
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