Events AshorePhotographs by An-My Lê
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An-My Lê’s first publication, Small Wars, brought together three bodies of black-and-white work (Vietnam, Small Wars, and 29 Palms), offering a trilogy of tautly rendered examinations of the spectacle of war, memory, and landscape. With Events Ashore, Lê continues her exploration of the American military, a pursuit both personal and civic. With this body of work, however, Lê emerges as a master colorist, employing the large-format color negative to powerful effect to capture the sometimes surreal, often surprisingly beautiful vistas of the military at work, with an emphasis on descriptive and compositional precision and subtlety of palette.
Events Ashore began when the artist was invited to photograph U.S. naval ships preparing for deployment to Iraq, the first in a series of visits to battleships, humanitarian missions in Africa and Asia, training exercises, and scientific missions in the Arctic and Antarctic. As Lê explains, these trips allowed her to study close at hand the military’s non-combat activities, becoming “a launching point for an examination of the U.S. military on the global stage across oceans and borders as a symbol of conflict, an echo of the age of exploration, and an unlikely (and unsung) force in the unfolding environmental crisis. . . . This work is as much about my perspective, and personal history as a political refugee from Vietnam, as it is about the vast geopolitical forces and conflicts that shape these landscapes.”
An-My Lê (born in Saigon, South Vietnam, 1960) received her BAS and MS degrees from Stanford University and an MFA from Yale University. She is currently a professor of photography at Bard College and is the recipient of numerous awards, including fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. In 2012, she became a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Her work has been widely shown and collected internationally, including at the Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; and the Queensland Art Gallery, Australia, among others.
Geoff Dyer (essay) is author of The Ongoing Moment (2005, winner of an International Center of Photography Infinity Award). He has also written four novels and five genre-defying books, including But Beautiful (Somerset Maugham Award), and an essay collection, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition (winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism). His newest book, Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H. W. Bush, will be published May 2014.