This City of Jazz, 2016
Vinyl Banners, metal signs, ink on paper (artist book) hardware.
May 3, 2016 – August 1, 2016
“This City of Jazz” is a story that reveals itself while visitors walk the path from the Acropolis to the National Jazz Museum of Harlem. The path is indicated by banners hanging from the lamp posts and a corresponding small plaque on each post. The banners hanging up high act like beacons, guiding the viewer along the path. The banners contain images of native plants that once covered Harlem. From the start of the trail, the banners are tight rectangular shapes gradually becoming waving flags by the conclusion of the trail. When a viewer arrives at a lamp post, they read a small part of the story which is printed onto a steel 10″ x 8” plaque. Each lamp post could be thought of as one page of a whole story book. By the end of the walk, the viewers can enter the National Jazz Museum and receive an artist book of the entire experience that they can take home. Starting at the lamp post located at the Fire Watchtower at the top of Marcus Garvey Park, the narrative takes the viewer back to 1609, right before Henry Hudson discovers Manhattan Island. The prose and imagery will describe the landscape of Harlem: Mt. Morris was made of two lonely rocks protruding from a swampy plain where many species of birds and plants thrived. Throughout the story, some of the text is mysteriously italicized. Then, once the viewer completes the stroll the narrative reveals that those words were of Duke Ellington’s thought on a City of Jazz excerpted from his autobiography, Music is my Mistress.
Tammy Nguyen, a Fullbright scholar, earned her MFA at Yale University School of Art. She makes paintings, artist’s books, and works-on-paper that tell stories through images and their materiality. The characters and environments that appear in these artworks are all proxies for human conditions that feel paradoxical: the bicultural tension of having roots in multiple traditions, the fear of dying yet thirst for danger, or the guilt and pleasure of breaking ethical codes. A skeptic and at the same time a believer of values from her multicultural upbringing, her artworks are new myths that reference folkloric representations of animals and nature. However, unlike images that emerge from folklore, Tammy draws from life and illustrates facts from biology that suggest human behavior and psychology. At first glance, her artworks look like lush fantasies like something from a children’s book. However, upon further inspection, the visual narratives are often vulgar and sometimes violent. Conjoined birds try to split, despite needing the other to survive. A hooded child appears to have innocent eyes in one artwork, yet she savagely eats a bird in another. Her work seduces viewers to look and then through the process of observation ideas unravel and defy expectations.