Combat Support Service Operations, 2003-2004, 29 Palms
Gelatin silver print
16x20 inches, image size 12X17 inches
Signed Edition of 30
(American, born Vietnam 1960)
An-My Lê’s pictures from the series 29 Palms are taken at the Marine base of the same name in Southern California where soldiers train before being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. Like Hollywood just 150 miles away, 29 Palms is a place where fictions are performed. Marines both rehearse their own roles and play the parts of civilians and local authorities, as they simulate a war which for them will soon become terrifyingly real. Like the US Geological Survey photographs of the 1870s, Lê’s pictures present the American West in lush detail and as epic and imposing. By stepping back, Lê emphasizes the sublime and relative insignificance of man, and by employing a sense of scale that makes the manmade elements appear toy-like she enhances the feeling of artifice. By bringing a new resonance to the phrase “the theater of war,” her work ultimately raises questions about the reliability of seemingly objective historical accounts--such as news reports and photographs--that greatly influence how war is communicated and remembered.
An-My Lê was born in Vietnam in 1960, spent part of her childhood in France, and came to the United States as a refugee from Vietnam in 1975. Her work has been included in many international exhibitions, at venues including P.S. 1/MOMA, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea, Torino, Italy, The Nasher Museum at Duke University, North Carolina, amongst others. Her work is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, and the Sackler Gallery (The Smithsonian), Washington, D.C. Lê currently lives in New York City and teaches at Bard College.