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Hương Ngô: Ungrafting

El Pomar Galleries

March 1, 2024 - July 27, 2024

Time is crucial to Hương Ngô, who investigates the resonances of colonial histories in the present day. She explores various aspects of Vietnamese resistance to French colonialism through archival research, and activates the historical record via imagery, language, and material matter.

For her first solo exhibition in Colorado, Ngô turns to a series of early twentieth-century photographs showing foreign trees and tree grafts planted in Vietnam by the French. For the artist, grafting—a procedure that involves cutting and splicing different species into a single plant—serves as a powerful metaphor for the physical violence inherent in colonialism. Ngô reproduces the archival photographs using the Van Dyke method, which was common at the time the original pictures were made, but alters the fixing process so that the new images will gradually deteriorate and darken.

Accompanying the photographs are other new works by Ngô: altered reproductions of plants that were catalogued in 1919 for a French herbarium (a collection of systematically organized dried plants) and hanging fabric works with visible sutures that are treated with iron, copper, and other materials, many of which carry particular significance in the Southwest region of the United States. Like tree grafts, the tears in these works serve as a reminder of the violence of agricultural and mineral extraction; control of land, the artist proposes, is often accompanied by control over the land’s inhabitants. At the same time, the mends make visible the resistance and repair that may emerge in response to such violence.

To expand on this idea, the artist will bring into the exhibition a selection of cultural heritage items from our Fine Arts Center’s permanent collection that further speak to the history of the region and its cultural intersections. Collectively, the works in the show offer a gesture of what the artist has termed “ungrafting”: a poetic decolonial methodology that weaves together networks of care across time.

Hương Ngô: Ungrafting is curated by Katja Rivera, Curator of Contemporary Art, in collaboration with the artist. Support of the exhibition is generously provided by The Anschutz Foundation and Colorado Creative Industries.

Image: Hương Ngô, Latent Images (Grafts) (detail), 2021. Courtesy the artist.

Thoughts from the Curator

Read an essay by Curator of Contemporary Art Katja Rivera about the exhibition.


The Anschutz Foundation Colorado Creative Industries