Phong Bui

Brooklyn, NY

I consider my portrait drawings, which are likenesses of artists, writers, poets, filmmakers, and so on — and require around twelve hours each to create — to be my handmade equivalent to Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans. They represent my so-called ‘democratic vista’ of the West. Whereas the abstract meditation paintings serve as my effort to empty the self through repetition of mark-making, like a chanting ritual, and provide a strong formal routine through which I can channel my Asian roots. It’s essential for me to maintain this equilibrium of the East and West, and exhibit them as necessary unity. Otherwise the energy may deviate in the wrong direction.

Phong Bui was born in Huế, Vietnam and now lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. He is an artist, writer, independent curator and former curatorial advisor at MoMA PS1 from 2007 to 2010. He is also the Co-Founder, Publisher, and Artistic Director of the monthly journal The Brooklyn Rail and the publishing press Rail Editions. In 2013 he founded the Rail Curatorial Projects, which aims to curate group exhibitions that respond specifically to location, cultural moment, and economic conditions, most recently Artists Need to Create on the Same Scale that Society has the Capacity to Destroy at Mana Contemporary, New Jersey. All of these facets of Bui’s work are part of a larger artistic vision—a social environment that includes his pencil-drawn portraits of various creative individuals in the arts and humanities and meditation paintings, an integral part of elaborate installations accompanied by events with collaborators from all disciplines. Recent publications include Tell Me Something Good: Artist Interviews from The Brooklyn Rail, The River Rail, and Occupy Rail, an ongoing endeavor to encourage and support motivated individuals to create their own editorially independent Rail, in their local communities across the United States and abroad.

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