Nguyen Xuan Huy’s paintings intermingle visions of standardized beauty with the instinctually repulsive to evoke precisely his desired response — the inability to look away however strong the impulse to do so.
Many of his paintings initially call to mind specific, iconic works in art history — Matisse’s Dance, Goya’s Sleep of Reason, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights, to name a few. But almost immediately, disturbing distortions move to the foreground. Nguyen’s cherubs are not cute, chubby angels but lithe Asian women wielding the Socialist hammer instead of bow and arrow. Their beautiful nude bodies seamlessly twist into orgiastic deformities and become two torso-ed figures with multiple limbs and misplaced body parts. In another, more picture-perfect women transform into provocative centaurs with the wings of hormone injected chickens and raise machine guns in the air, at odds with the mythical associations and idyllic jungle setting.
Born in Hanoi, Vietnam in the mid ’70s, and currently living in Berlin, Germany, Nguyen’s work is a harsh reminder of the ongoing legacy of the Vietnam War, specifically the genetic mutations caused by Agent Orange and the birth defects that continue to be passed down generations later.