Artist: Tony Nguyen
Media: Sculpture, Metal Smith
Gallery: CSULB School of Art
Website: Instagram: eIII_tigue
About the Artist
This is Tony Nguyen. He has been attending CSULB for five and a half years now studying in the BFA program with the focus on Metal Smith. I have never heard of a program that teaches students how to metal smith so this caught my interest right when I walked in through the door. His close ties with his family complemented and contributed to his detailed craftsmanship. Judging from the exhibition, he was playful and spent a lot of time creating all of his artworks. He considers himself as a “child” in an adult body. In fact, the name of his exhibition resembles himself as a person; “Neotony.”
We were welcomed by a British-inspired mailbox, which also functioned as a critic holder, where students or teachers may review his work or simply write a note complementing his hard work. Without looking at the rest of the exhibition this mailbox seemed like something I could buy. However everything, apart from the lights and walls, he built with his own hands.
This vending machine was inspired my Tony’s father when he immigrated to the United States. The silver hints were an addition to add some of his culture to a classic American vending machine. And similar to all of his artworks, they all function in its own special way.
On the first picture of this blog, Tony was using one of his projects as a way to communicate to us the importance of functionality to him. In that picture, one of my classmates got to try on a snake bracelet that he made. Basically it was a snake that wrapped around one’s wrist and the snake’s head will bite its tail. Then it connected to another snake that forms a choker that women can accessorize with. He emphasized that everything that he makes has to have a purpose and is one of the aspects why he continues to create.
All of the works involved a sentimental background to it. For example, this piece, with the water tank and plant pot, symbolizes friendships or the connections he formed since he was a child. It’s a little cheesy but to him it is something that he holds dear to his heart. I even realized that the plant was authentic, which looked adorable since it fit in that miniature pot. One of the students also asked if putting a real plant symbolized a “real friendship” compared to a fake plant that resembles a “fake friendship.” And he responded with a surprised look and said that that was a great observation. He was really glad that we were able to convey different messages towards his work.
This piece, as corny as it is, spoke to me because it was very relatable. A background story for the bridges comes from Tony’s mom and she said that in Vietnam there was a bridge that connected her city across the river. And once the Vietnam war started there were rebels that attacked and bombed the city. The bridges were targeted and once it was destroyed it prevented families from escaping the rebels. Therefore, if his mother did not cross the bridge then he would not be here.
The bridges have the numbers one, two, three, and four in roman numerals, which represent Tony and his brothers. And at the end of the necklace represents his parents which are also symbolized in bridge form. Then the parents’ bridge connects to the four bridges. Then to top it off, he crafted their names under the bridges.
It was awesome to see a unique type of exhibition and I have never seen metal-smith work before. His presentation was very organized and entertaining because of how he arranged his pieces in a way that a little toy store boutique would. This arrangement actually made me feel like I was in a toy store again asking my dad to buy me something. In addition to nostalgia, it is always great to be able to relate with an artist because I am more engaged in what they say and what each piece means. Last but not least, the craftsmanship and amount of detail he put in his works was something I marveled. I am definitely happy with what he plans on doing and I would love to see more of his works.