Artist: Tony Nguyen
Gallery: Dr. Maxine Merlino Gallery
Down at the CSULB’s Merlino Gallery, I had to pleasure of meeting Tony Nguyen. Mr. Nguyen is finishing up his last semester as an undergraduate student of the BFA in the Metal program. He mentioned that his Vietnamese culture inspires his work and enjoys incorporating his culture into his artwork. Also, he said that he decided to name his exhibition “Neoteny” after he had a conversation with a famous metalsmith/jeweler. Each piece in his exhibition took about 4-6 weeks to complete, procrastination included.
When I first saw “Neoteny,” I noticed the beautiful metal toy dispenser machine, it brought me back to my childhood when I used to beg my parents to give you quarters so that I can get those cheap plastic jewelry/toy from those machines. Speaking of jewelry/toy, there was a ton of those in this exhibition. Mr. Nguyen had 15 pieces displayed that included a necklace, crown, figurines, and toy dispenser that were all made out of metal. At first glance, I thought that the only thing in common that all these pieces had is that they are all made out of metal but the more I heard Mr. Nguyen explain what his piece are about I realized that that is not everything they have in common. They were all related because they have to do with his childhood memories.
Mr. Nguyen explained that he got the name “Neoteny” from a well-known metalsmith/jeweler and that like him at first and mostly all of us in the room didn’t know what it meant. After he was told the definition which is “when an organism or individual maintains juvenile behaviors into adulthood,” he knew immediately that was going to be his title because it describes him and his work perfectly. Through his artwork, he wants to bring a smile on our faces by creating a sense of nostalgia for our childhood/youth. He feels like many of us have forgotten what it was like to be a child and hopes that by sharing what kept him occupied during his childhood would remind us what we were like at that age. He also said that he enjoyed making this piece because it was like he was reliving his childhood in his adult life.
I found this exhibition unique and very nostalgic. I enjoyed how every piece he created had a story behind it and that I can also relate to some of his stories. I particularly liked the metal toy dispenser one and felt like I can relate to that one the most because who didn’t like wasting quarters on cheaply made things while they were young? It felt like I had just won a million bucks whenever I would get the “prettiest” jewelry/toy from the toy dispenser. I thought it was very cool that he recreated his favorite childhood memories and decided to showcase them for us to see.