A review of the Propeller Group exhibition at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston:
There’s something deceptive about the exhibition on view at the University of Houston’s Blaffer Art Museum. Installed through Sept. 30, The Propeller Group blurs the line between art and media. The Propeller Group, a trans-pacific collective based in Los Angeles and Vietnam, utilizes the tools and strategies of advertising and marketing—branding, new media, applications—to examine the culture and history of Vietnam as well as its role as a growing capitalist market.
The multi-part projects are dispersed throughout the two-story museum, and while some rooms may feel sparse, they sit heavy with the weight of questions the members of the collective seem to be asking themselves. Fade In is a reenactment of an incident when a series of shipments were confiscated by the Vietnamese government because they contained guns made of wood, props from a collaboration with Dutch artists. The misunderstanding grows from clarification about these props to a larger conversation about their cultural significance and the customs officer’s insistence that it would be wiser to use something more authentic to the country and its people. As the video plays, men are moving carvings of jackfruit wood, a truck pulls in front of the man on the phone, and as the truck pulls away and his conversation with the officer comes to an end, he enters the building—fade to black.