An-My Lê: Between Two Rivers at the MoMA
From November 5, 2023, through March 9, 2024, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) presents “An-My Lê: Between Two Rivers / Giữa hai giòng song / Entre deux Rivières”, the artist’s first museum survey in New York.
Source: The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) · Image: An-My Lê. “Untitled, Ho Chi Minh City”, from the series “Viêt Nam”, 1995. © 2022 An-My Lê, courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery
The exhibition explores how Lê’s entire body of work considers cycles of global history and conflict, contemplating the impact of displacement, politics, and the sensationalizing of warfare. “Between Two Rivers” encompasses three decades of Lê’s work in a variety of mediums, including a selection of well-known photographic series alongside new textiles, installations, and rediscovered films. The exhibition also features new photographs from her ongoing series Silent General (2015–present) and the debut of a sitespecific, immersive cyclorama. “An-My Lê: Between Two Rivers / Giữa hai giòng song / Entredeux Rivières” is organized by Roxana Marcoci, The David Dechman Senior Curator of Photography; with Caitlin Ryan, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Photography.
“The two rivers in the exhibition’s title refer to the Mekong and Mississippi river deltas,” Roxana Marcoci explains. “They are subjects that Lê has inflected with her own experiences of war and displacement, and a metaphor that invites viewers to reflect on the circularity of time and history, the layering of disparate geographies, and the intimacies that paradoxically grow out of conflict.”
Born in Vietnam in 1960, An-My Lê came to the United States in 1975, after the fall of Saigon, as a political refugee. The first gallery in the exhibition features a selection from her earliest group of works, Viêt Nam (1994–98), a series of black-and-white photographs taken when she first returned to Vietnam. This early photographic series is shown with a newer color photographic series from 2011, titled New Delta, which draws parallels between women in the Mississippi River area of the southern United States and the Mekong River in Vietnam’s south. Although made almost 20 years apart, both series explore the complexities of American militarism through Lê’s own Vietnamese heritage and experiences of war and dislocation.
Lê is known for intentionally ambiguous landscape photography, and the following galleries are dedicated to two of Lê’s well-known photographic series that showcase her ability to layer two landscapes, two wars, two time periods, and two cultural histories across different mediums. “Between Two Rivers” includes a selection of photographs and a newly rediscovered film from Lê’s Small Wars (1999–2002), a series of Vietnam War battleground re-enactments staged on a key American Civil War site in Virginia. Merging real wars with staged locations, the third gallery will feature a selection of photographs from 29 Palms (2003–04) alongside the first US presentation of a two-channel video installation of the same name. In this series, Lê deliberately uses the camera’s supposed ability to capture reality to create visual confusion, capturing a replica war zone in California’s High Desert used for training US soldiers preparing for war in Iraq and Afghanistan.