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Tuan Andrew Nguyen

Dragon Scales


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In this mobile the contemporary Vietnamese American artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen etched a geometric pattern of dragon scales across the surface of a 57 mm, Russian-manufactured artillery shell. The limbs of the mobile, consisting of thin brass rods that end in flattened, polished circles, hang from the artillery shell. All of the materials that make up this sculpture derive from fragments of Vietnam War­ era bombs, which are still being found decades after the end of the war in 1975. This kinetic sculpture evokes a bomb drop or air raid while also bearing a resemblance to the work of the American artist Alexander Calder, an example of whose sculpture can be found outside the Museum in the Florence Steinberg Weil Sculpture Garden. Nguyen's mobile also includes a sonic element, with the artillery shell doubling as a bell that, when struck, emits a low chime. The artist worked with a sound healer to tune the sculpture to a vibration of 432 Hz, creating a sound that is therapeutic for those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and thereby transforming an object of war into one of healing. [Permanent collection label, 2023]

  • Artist Tuan Andrew Nguyen (Vietnamese American, b. 1976)
  • Title Dragon Scales
  • Date 2022
  • Medium 57 mm brass artillery shell, tuned to 432 Hz; brass ordnance and stainless steel; and wire; and with wood mallet
  • Dimensions overall | 68 x 37 x 44 in.
  • Credit line University purchase, Yeatman Fund and William McMillan Fund, 2022
  • Object number WU 2022.0008 a-x
  • Currently on View James M. Kemper Gallery, Room 3

New Acquisitions in Contemporary Art
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 07/19/2023 James M. Kemper Gallery, Room 3

Received 11/16-17 & returned, approved by ACC 12/12/2022; final version received 1/19/2023
James Cohan Gallery (New York)

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