Monumental Cut Paper Portraits Celebrate the Fundamental Importance of Community and Friendship
“The limits of my language are the limits of my world” (2021), hand-cut paper, ink, pencil, paint, 77 x 48 1/4 inches. All images courtesy of Antonius Bui and Monique Meloche Gallery, shared with permission
Vietnamese-American artist Antonius Bui highlights the flexible, evolving nature of identity and the value of community through a series of unapologetically affectionate portraits. Elaborate hand-cut botanicals and geometric motifs envelop and give shape to Bui’s subjects, who include chosen and biological family members, friends, and colleagues. Painted in deep blue or inked in smaller spots to emit a warm glow, the pieces are monumental in scale—some extend upwards of 10 feet—and saturated with underlying stories that reveal themselves through smaller portraits and displays of domestic life embedded in the central image.
Continually focused on the power of narrative, Bui leaves gaps in the metaphorical, mesh-like works as a way to create space for more nuanced understandings of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, immigrant experiences, queerness, and the prevalence of false binaries. A child of Vietnamese refugees, they draw on their family’s heritage with “allusions to the spiritual significance of Joss paper, an incense paper used both to imitate value and as a form of blessings, position(ing) each work almost as an offering to honor queer communities,” a statement about the portraits says.
All of the works shown here are part of The Detour Is to Be Where We Are, which is on view through August 14 at Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago. You can find more of Bui’s intimate pieces on their site and Instagram.
Detail of “The limits of my language are the limits of my world” (2021), hand-cut paper, ink, pencil, paint, 77 x 48 1/4 inches
Detail of “for hunger is to give the body what it knows it cannot keep” (2020), hand-cut paper, ink, pencil, 120 x 61 inches
“If I had the words to tell you we wouldn’t be here now” (2020), hand-cut paper, ink, pencil, 104 x 60 inches
Left: “I remember opening you into words, gently, with a single question” (2021), hand-cut paper, ink, pencil, paint, 100 3/4 x 49 3/4 inches. Right: “for hunger is to give the body what it knows it cannot keep” (2020), hand-cut paper, ink, pencil, 120 x 61 inches