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An-My Lê: Small Wars

Henry Art Gallery
Seattle WA – Aug 8-Nov 4, 2007

An-My Lê - 29 Palms: Marine Palms

An-My Lê, 29 Palms: Marine Palms [detail] (2003-2004), gelatin silver print [Henry Art Gallery, Seattle WA, Aug 8-Nov 4]

An-My Lê came to America in 1975 as a refugee from the Vietnam War. Her travelling exhibition, Small Wars is a reflection of the wars that have shaped the last half century in America; the war in Vietnam and the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Composed from two different series of photographs, Lê doesn’t document the actual war in Iraq – she was denied permission. Her eloquent black and white photos capture reenactments and rehearsals of war, giving the term “theater of war” a new meaning.

At a military base located in the California desert where soldiers train before being deployed Lê captures fictional accounts of war that appear to be documentary. In this series 29 Palms (2003-present), named after the military base, vistas of the American landscape dominate over the military activity that is her subject. This approach mirrors the sanitized perspective of the Iraqi war that is filtered into the American public and makes one question the authenticity of such seemingly objective media coverage.

In contrast, the graphic terrors of the Vietnam war were largely broadcast into American eyes, creating an iconic remembrance of the horrific events. Lê’s Small Wars series (1999-2002) depicts men who reenact battles from Vietnam in the forests of Virginia. Some are veterans and some are history buffs: Lê is sensitive to the complex psychology of what motivates these men and crafts her images without any parody. Rather, Lê’s pictures resonate with perception about how a war is remembered, examining the premise of accurate experience and corporeal histories.


Allyn Cantor

An-My Lê - 29 Palms: Rocked-Propelled Grenade Ambush

An-My Lê, 29 Palms: Rocked-Propelled Grenade Ambush (2003-2004), gelatin silver print [Henry Art Gallery, Seattle WA, Aug 8-Nov 4] Collection Lannan Foundation, Santa Fe, NM.

 Mon, Sep 3, 2007