Angela Anh Nguyen tufts. As in, she makes rugs. Not the type of rugs you would see in the back corner of West Elm, but the type of rugs that can be a story; of movement, of class, of history, of pop-culture. Her tufting is a conversation of space and place, and as the Los Angeles artist has begun to explore her craft and process even further, she has begun to think of the flexibility of her storytelling. How she hangs or displays the work seems to be key. This past weekend, she opened How We Hegemony, a solo show of new works on display in One Grand Gallery in Portland. These works are to be lived with, but also to be in conversation with. 

Recently, I had a conversation with Angela on her recent readings of Walter Benjamin, which she honed in on for me. "Benjamin's work is so important to my practice," she said. "His main premise of The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction was that through the modern advancement of technology, the reproduction of art via television, radio, and photography would liberate the "aura" of physical art and allow for a democratization of it through accessibility to individuals. The guy was never able to live long enough to see that was not the case since he off-ed himself (RIP Benjamin, you would have hated NFTs). Nonetheless, his ideas set a foundation to my artwork.

"I think what's most important about Benjamin's writing was his want to liberate art from its elite norms/hegemonic status quo. Therefore when I am creating work I ask myself: How do we counter the standards that are set in the industrial practice of tufting? Or, how do we offset the fixed roles of installation in a fine art setting? Tufting is grounded in industrial norms of production embedded in capitalism, while art is very much a world of luxury and decorum. They are on polar opposite sides of the spectrum and the goal is to find a middle ground I’m satisfied with. Needless to say, Benjamin has a role in the resistance of these norms and overall development of my process not only symbolically but also physically—and that's praxis!"

Not only is Angela challenging our perceptions of character work in a fine art context and the ways in which we interior design norms can be flipped upside, she is thinking in a more complex set of standards of the industrialization of the world. What is mass-produced, how is it produced, how do bring that into a conversation of labor and a contemporary art practice. She is, now, bringing something new to light. —Evan Pricco