Since the early 1990s, Tam Van Tran has been producing an impressive body of work comprising abstract paintings, mixed-media collages, ceramic tiles, and sculpture. By mixing traditional art materials such as linen and acrylic with unconventionally applied organic substances (including spirulina, chlorophyll, wood, staples, and aluminum foil), Tran creates colorful and highly textural works that formally and thematically syncretize Eastern and Western influences. Tran’s intricate techniques extend the field of painting while incorporating imagery and materials laden with references to his native Vietnam, his adopted home of Los Angeles, spiritual concepts, and myriad other cultural references.
Tran’s solo exhibition at MCASB, titled Aikido Dream, which features a selection of approximately twenty works from the 2000s to the present, serves as a vehicle for understanding the nature of the artistic process rather than presenting a chronological or mid-career retrospective. Aikido, often translated as "the way of unifying (with) life energy" or "the way of harmonious spirit," represents a synthesis of physical and philosophical beliefs. Aikido Dream also reflects Tran’s interest in meditation, our environment, and his belief in intuition and transience, realms in which nothing is fixed and everything is in motion. This exhibition offers a nuanced platform to understand his artistic trajectory, providing a framework that fosters an investigation of his long-standing, iterative interests in religious thought (particularly the Buddhist idea of non-duality) and pop culture, as well as natural processes and transitions. In this spirit of ethnic and processual diversity, even Tran’s titles are delightfully unexpected cultural fusions, evoking both indie song phrases and meditative koans.
Tam Van Tran (b. 1966, Kon Tum, Vietnam) received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1990 from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. He later graduated from the School of Film and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1996. His work was featured in the 2004 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY. He has had numerous national and international exhibitions including, “Adornment of Basic Space,” Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles, CA; “Mind is a Pure Expanse of Space,” Anthony Meier Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA; “Luminosity,” Cohan and Leslie, New York, NY; and “Tam Van Tran: Psychonaut,” Blaffer Gallery, The Art Museum of the University of Houston, Houston, TX. Recent group exhibitions include “Paul Clay,” Salon 94, New York, NY; “east Ex east,” curated by Jane Neal at Brand New Gallery, Milan Italy; “Ascending Dragon: Contemporary Vietnamese Artists Exhibition,” Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA; “Fresh From Chelsea,” University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL; “Keramik,” Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles, CA; “Inaugural Group Exhibition,” Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, Los Angeles, CA; “Topographies,” Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; “California Dreaming,” Seiler + Mosseri-Marlio Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland; and “Super Vision”, The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA. His work is found in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; The Broad Collection, Santa Monica, CA; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA; and The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH. Tran lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.
Special Thanks to:
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB) exhibition and education programs are generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; Nordstrom; Towbes Foundation; Dedalus Foundation; Ann Jackson Family Foundation; Community Events & Festivals Grant Program using funds provided by the City of Santa Barbara in partnership with the Santa Barbara County Arts Commission; Mosher Foundation in honor of Barry Berkus, recommended by Dr. Bruce McFadden; Montecito Bank & Trust; High Tide Foundation; and contributions from our Board of Trustees and many generous individuals. MCASB Curator's Council is gratefully acknowledged for their support. Additional significant support is provided by The James Irvine Foundation; Getty Foundation; Hutton Parker Foundation; Williams-Corbett Foundation; Hutton Parker Foundation/Cox Communications Marketing Grant, and Santa Barbara Foundation. Special thanks to: Paseo Nuevo Shopping Center; Telegraph Brewing Company; and Wayne McCall & Associates.
Major Support for Tam Van Tran: Aikido Dream is provided by Christopher Yin & John Yoon, and Suzanne Klein in honor of Edna Meyer-Nelson. Additional support provided by Maria Rendon & Robert Giaimo, Cindy & Andrew Bermant, Nancy & Michael Gifford, Laura Macker Johnston, Jacquelyn Klein-Brown, Debby Peterson, Laurie & Marc Recordon, and Jenn Kennedy & Georgene Vairo. Special thanks to Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects, and Anthony Meier Fine Arts.