Tomas Vu was born in Saigon, Vietnam and at the age of ten moved with his family to El Paso, Texas. Vu received a BFA from the University of Texas, El Paso, and went on to earn an MFA from Yale University. He has been a professor at Columbia University School of the Arts since 1996, when he helped found the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies. In 2000, he was appointed the LeRoy Neiman Professor of Visual Arts. Since its inception, Vu-Daniel has served as Director/Artistic Director of the Neiman center. Vu has exhibited nationally and internationally and has had solo museum shows in Japan, Italy, China, and Vietnam. Vu currently lives and works in New York City.
From 2003-2004, Vu began work on the Opium Dreams series, which includes drawings and paintings. In Opium Dreams, Vu depicts a fantastical journey through the stages of a hallucinatory vision. Layering paint, silkscreen, drawing, and collage, Vu shows us a modern day vision of Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights” where helicopters, poppies, and mushroom clouds form a floating world.
From 2006 – 2012, Vu worked at the Neiman Center to produce a serial body of work entitled Flatland. This series of 103 unique prints combines silkscreen, painting, drawing, and laser engraved images on wood veneer. The significance of 103 drawings is rooted in the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center, which began at 8:46 AM and ended at 10:29 AM when both towers had collapsed. Each drawing represents one of the 103 minutes from 8:46 AM to 10:29 AM.
In an ongoing project started in 2011, Vu has created a series of alaïa surfboards, hand-shaped paulownia wood surfboards based on a pre-20th-century Hawaiian model. On one side of these boards, Vu uses laser-engraving technology to create sprawling drawings composed of many overlapping images. On the reverse, he engraves drawings composed of the lyrics of Beatles’ songs. He plans to produce one board for each song in the Beatles’ discography. These surfboards are Vu’s most autobiographical work, inspired by childhood memories of caring for American GI’s surfboards on the beaches of Vietnam and being introduced to the Beatles by those GI’s.
In 2012-2013, Vu revisited the Opium Dream series, adding to drawings that were originally made as studies in 2003-2004. Vu continues to work on the Dark Side of the Moon series, which includes paintings of various sizes as well as drawings on mylar. These futuristic landscapes are informed by the technological and post-industrial advances of man. Deeply in tune to the impacts, both positive and negative, of these innovations, Vu plays with the roles of man and machine and the waning boundary between the two. The work is ultimately a protest against the destruction of our planet and our humanity.
Vu-Daniel received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2002, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship award in 2001 and recently, the Sharpe-Walentas Studio Program in 2015, the Audience Award for Best Artist and residency at the 30th Biennial of Graphic Arts Ljubljana in 2016 and the 2018 Arts/Industry Residency at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center. He has had solo exhibitions at Milwaukee Institute for Art and Design (1998), Museum Haus Kusaya, Yokuska (2001), Centro Colombo Americano, Bogotá (2012) and the China Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum, Beijing (2015). In collaboration with Rirkrit Tiravanija, Vu-Daniel will have a solo exhibition at Vargas Museum, Manila, in the fall of 2017. Vu-Daniel has participated in numerous group shows including Organische Abstraction at Wilhem Hack Museum, Ludwigshafen (2006), Orpheus Selection: In Search of Darkness at MoMA PS1, New York City (2007), Boston High Tea: Master Print Series at Sunshine Museum, Songzhuang (2008), Contemporary Prints at Today Art Museum, Beijing (2009), Ten Years of Process and Collaboration 1998-2008 at Museum of the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing (2009), The American Contemporary Printing Exhibition at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, that traveled to the Shanghai Art Museum, Zhejiang Art Museum, Hangzhou, and Guan Shanyue Art Museum, Shen Zhen (2010), Draw: Mapping Madness at Inside Out Art Museum, Beijing, that traveled to Dali Contemporary Art Museum (2014), and many more. Vu-Daniel currently lives and works in New York, NY.