Sto Len is a printmaker, painter, installation, sound and performance artist with interests in site-specific improvisation and experimentation within a variety of media. An Asian-American artist with equal influences from both his Vietnamese and Virginia origins, Sto works within the dichotomy of these roots and often incorporates their unusual bonds by connecting issues of their history, environment, traditions and politics. Growing up in the Washington DC area, Sto was influenced by the art and activism of the DIY punk rock scene happening there in the 90s, which he continues to embody through artwork that combines those ethics with experimental takes on traditional craft.
Sto has exhibited his artwork and performed internationally, including NY, Vietnam, Japan, London, Australia, Denmark, and Canada. Sto co-founded the alternative arts space Cinders Gallery in Brooklyn, NY which has exhibited hundreds of artists since its inception in 2004 and continues to curate exhibitions as a project-based Non-Profit Arts organization. Sto’s work is in numerous collections including the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, West Collection, Tyler School of Art, Yale University, University of Connecticut, Art Institute of Chicago, Pennsylvania State University, University of Pittsburgh, Harvard University Art Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Libraries and San Diego State University.
My current body of work transforms the traditional printmaking art of Suminagashi (floating ink) into an experimental collaboration with nature and a site of discourse on environmentalism and art activism. Working en plein air (often from a boat), I use my own marbling-like process to print directly off of the surface of urban waterways with paper. The end results are ghostly imprints that contain both the natural and anthropogenic residue of the site’s history. During these urban explorations, I document my journeys with photographs, video, collections and field recordings that give visibility to a city’s unseen and neglected watershed areas. These trips have also recently included memory walks open to the public, site-specific interventions, impromptu bbqs, water rituals and solar-powered noise concerts.
Recent work in New York, Rhode Island, Colombia, and Vietnam has enabled my studio to be as large as a river and a practice that is becoming increasingly nomadic and global. In between travels, I maintain an ongoing studio practice using controlled bodies of water in inflatable swimming pools with combinations of oil paint, dirt, spray paint, and extended periods of time, to create colorful, patterned compositions on paper, maps, found materials, and wood that celebrate the materiality of water and the immateriality of memory. My process-based sound performances investigate the potential sonic life of everyday objects by literally amplifying the voice of the unconsidered and inanimate with touch, sound and movement using contact microphones and analog effect pedals.
Equipped with amplified gloves, I tease sounds out of every conceivable object and surface such as a chair, the floor, my own body, water hitting the bottom of a metal bowl, or a tree branch I picked up on the walk to the venue. The world becomes an instrument and my hands, the medium.