Turning over a new leaf

Artist Binh Danh mines life experience for latest exhibit

At 28 years old, artist Binh Danh continues to embody the sophistication and penetrating observation of someone much further along in years.

Perhaps it’s his life experience that gives his scope of work such upending breadth.

Danh spent the formative years of his life in war-torn Vietnam, then a year in a refugee camp off the island of Malaysia, before his family immigrated to San Jose.

Not surprisingly, the Vietnam War has monopolized much of the artist’s work.

In the artist’s latest exhibition, “Ancestral Affairs,” now showing atthe Haines Gallery, Danh has turned his attention toward Cambodia and presents a beautiful and ethereal series of photographs of prisoners held captive at Tuol Sleng.

It is estimated that more than 20,000 prisoners were tortured and executed at the prison, which operated between 1975 and 1979.

The facility has since become the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and includes, among its exhibits, several rooms lined from top to bottom with black-and-white photos of those held captive, many of which Danh has culled for his own exhibition.

Making these images even more haunting is Danh’s use of “chlorophyll prints,” a process he invented that transposes the image from a photograph’s negative onto leaves. A film negative is placed on a leaf that is then pressed between two plates of glass, and then left in the sun so natural process of photosynthesis embeds the image onto the leaf.

Much of Danh’s body of work tackles highly political subject matter, yet the artist time and again describes himself as a neutral observer.

His work reflects that standpoint and interestingly, adds an unexpected intensity to the work that is so delicate, it nearly catches one by surprise.

Windy’s city

Opening this Saturday at the Space Gallery is the Windy Brown retrospective presented by the Institute for Unpopular Culture.

Known for her high-reaching status as one The City’s premiere scene queens, Brown presents her newly devised artistic genre she calls Fused Media Impression, by which the progressive artist merges the hard-and-fast world of reality within the fluctuating realm of surrealism.

Standard photography is often turned into works that brim with psychedelic energy. And at the Ampersand International Arts gallery presents Bay Area favorites Amanda Hughen and Arngunnur Yr present their striking and brooding landscapes intheir new show “Firmament.”

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