Khanh Le_Image for Press_Standing at the Gate with His New White Tennis Shoe and T-Shirt05.13.17 – 06.03.17


While We Wait features work by the DC interdisciplinary artist focusing on mixed-media photography. In recent years, news of Syrian refugees in Europe and immigration issues here in the United States caused Lê to reflect on his personal experiences as he and his family waited for permission to immigrate to the United States in the late 80s. For this exhibition, Lê began by re-photographing old family photographs taken either just before leaving Vietnam or during their stay in refugee camps in Thailand and Hong Kong. He then began his own practice of abstracting those memories through embellishment.

Lê’s work is a hybrid of design, minimalism, photography, abstract painting, and bedazzling. He transforms everyday family photo albums into colorful abstractions using gold gelly roll pens, sequins, acrylic stickers, and acrylic crystals. Because these scrapbooking materials have little perceived value, there is freedom to embed culturally specific references within fading memories and identities.These added materials alter, interrupt, and give new possibile meanings to these captured memories. What originated as personal memories become part of a shared public memory. In his practice, Lê combines cultural signifiers with abstraction and popular culture to create new work that is either pure abstraction, identity-based art, or both.


Image: Khánh Lê, Standing at the Gate with His New White Tennis Shoe and T-Shirt, 2017. Mixed media: gold and silver paint, acrylic jewels, and toner and gel transfer on wood panel. 42”x30”x2”



For Lê, identity plays a central role in artistic output. He continuously probes his personal and familial histories in an attempt to carve out a cultural identity for himself. Lê graduated with his BFA from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville and his MFA from Syracuse University. His work has been exhibited at the Hunterdon Art Museum (Clinton, NJ), Visual Arts at Chautauqua Institution (Chautauqua, NY), Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), Vox Populi (Philadelphia, PA), Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (Wilmington, DE), Arlington Arts Center (Arlington, VA), Honfleur Gallery (Washington, DC), DC Arts Center (Washington, DC), Washington Project for the Arts (Washington, DC), and Transformer (Washington, DC). The New York Art Residency and Studio awarded Lê the 2016 Annual Solo Exhibition Fellowship. The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities awarded Lê the Artist Fellowship for the Visual Arts in 2017. Lê continues to live and work in Washington, DC, where he actively explores and questions the notion of identities through the lenses of culture and memories.


Opening Reception: Friday, May 12, 6-8pm (free and open to the public)

Luce Foundation Center Artist Talk: Sunday, May 21, 1:30pm (free and open to the public), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Third Floor


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