Exhibition “A Present Retrospective”

Exhibition “A Present Retrospective”

Posted on


Opening: Fri 19 May 2017, 6.30 pm
Exhibition: 20 May – 12 Jun 2017, 10 am – 6 pm
Work Room Four

From the organizer:

An exhibition showcasing the reproduction of propaganda artworks created between 1969 and 1972 by the late celebrated Cuban Graphic Artist René Mederos and Art pieces by five established contemporary Vietnamese Artists produced in response to the series.

In 1969 René Mederos (1933-1996) was sent by the Cuban government to Vietnam to paint scenes of the war in both North and South Vietnam. Mederos travelled with soldiers and villagers along the Hồ Chí Minh Trail, living and working with the Vietnamese community. He returned to Vietnam in 1972, and once again painted images of the Vietnamese resistance, often at great personal risk. During his two trips to Vietnam, Mederos amassed a collection of over three-dozen works of various sizes, depicting the grassroots revolutionary movement of the Vietnamese in vibrant, detailed paintings. Mederos’ work aimed to demonstrate the solidarity that the Cuban people felt for the Vietnamese people, rather than to glorify war. Over the years, his paintings and posters of the war have been displayed by anti- war organisations and in art galleries around the world.

This exhibition showcasing eighteen archival prints of the paintings/posters that Mederos created during his two visits to Vietnam is the first time they are exhibited in Vietnam since their initial display in the country.

The works are drawn from two social justice poster collections based in California, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in Los Angeles (directed by Carol Wells) and the Docs Populi Archive in Berkeley (directed by Lincoln Cushing). Wells and Cushing both knew Mederos personally and have promoted his work through essays, books, lectures, and exhibitions. The exhibition is taking place thanks to the efforts of Mederos’ grandson Marcelo Brociner alongside the assistance of these organisations. Marcelo has been wanting to bring his grandfather’s work back to Vietnam ever since he himself visited the country for an internship at Work Room Four in 2016.

Complimenting the show will be the works of five contemporary Vietnamese artists, who will create artworks in response to Mederos’ work. By inviting Lê Quý Tông, Nguyễn Thế Sơn, Nguyễn Nghĩa Cương, Phạm Khắc Quang and Giang Nguyễn to participate in the exhibition, not only will a past Vietnam be represented through the Mederos work, but also reflections on contemporary Vietnamese society and their reactions to past and present will be shown from the perspective of these five artists.

With the inclusion of these two contrasting yet equally important narratives, this exhibition will create a space for a dialogue focusing on the legacy of Mederos’ work as seen through the eyes of 21st century Vietnamese Artists.

This exhibition brings the focus away from conflict to a space of collaboration and solidarity. We as nations are now eternally bound and it is imperative that we all work together for a peaceful coexistence.


René Mederos
Born in 1933 in Sagual la Grande in Cuba, Mederos was a self-taught illustrator and began his career as a graphic designer at a print shop in Havana in 1944. In1959 he was appointed Head Designer the Cuban television station Intercommunications, where he first started creating posters in his distinct graphic style of vibrant colours and sharp contours in 1964. The artist passed away in Cuba on the 24th of September 1996.

Giang Nguyễn
The multidisciplinary designer Giang Nguyễn who works both as a design lecturer and an independent graphic designer in Ho Chi Minh City is best known for his typefaces and pattern work that take their inspiration from old signage, fonts and artisanship from a variety of cities and cultures. He was born in 1988 and received his BA in Multimedia Design from RMIT University in Ho Chi Minh City before pursuing an MA in Graphic Design in the United States.

Lê Quý Tông
Over his career spanning almost two decades, painter Lê Quý Tông established himself as one of the most prolific artists working in Vietnam today. His practice is ever-evolving as he continues to explore a variety of painting and wet and dry media, which range from oil on canvas to sketching on paper and mixed media collage work. Tông was born in 1977 in Hanoi where he graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Arts in 2000.

Nguyễn Nghĩa Cương
Part of the first generation of contemporary artists to emerge in Hanoi post Đổi Mới, Cương made his mark with work that employs a bright colour palette, naïve brush strokes and a strong sense of direction and humour depicting for whimsical scenes of life and the human condition. His a humorous approach lends itself well to his depictions of with which he tackles darker socio-political realities and reflections on the complexity of self and the observation of the self and others.. Cương was born in 1973 in Bắc Ninh and graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Art in Hanoi in 1996.

Nguyễn Thế Sơn
Over the past decade Thế Sơn, who first trained as a silk painter, has been using photography as a medium to engage in both past and present social and historical issues and has established a unique and impressive body of work, whilst continuously challenging the definition and role of contemporary photography in Vietnam. Thế Sơn was born in 1978 in Hanoi and graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Art where he works as a lecturer today. He holds a Masters in Photography from the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA) in Beijing.

Phạm Khắc Quang
The printer and graphic artist Quang has both perfected his wood-cut printing methods derived from traditional Đông Hồ prints and developed innovative methods allowing him to position the medium in a contemporary art practice. He is both celebrated as one of the best craftsmen in his field and has made his mark as a contemporary artist. Quang was born in 1975 in Hải Dương and graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Arts in Hanoi in 2003.

The exhibition is generously supported by the Cuban Embassy.

Follow updates on event page

Work Room Four
24th floor, Packexim Building, lane 15, An Duong Vuong Str, Tay Ho, Hanoi


Leave a Reply