Ken Lum: The Mini Mall Series
Jan 17—Feb 28 2014
The Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery presents Canadian artist Ken Lum’s first exhibition in Philadelphia.
Born in 1956 in Vancouver, Canada, Lum has been exhibiting since the late 1970s. As part of the informal Vancouver group (his teachers included Jeff Wall and Ian Wallace, and others in his milieu included Stan Douglas and Rodney Graham), Lum has worked in a variety of media including performances, sculptures, photographs, paintings and installations; a large and complex body focusing on identity formation in the public and private arenas. His “Mini-Mall” works build upon ideas of societal subjectivities set forth in his earlier “Shopkeeper” (2000-2009) series, comprising fictive sign-like works for plausible urban communities defined by flux. Like the previous series, the “Mini-Mall” works point to the diverse changing ethnic and economic demographics of the neighborhoods to which they serve.
A primary theme of Lum’s work is the individual constrained by social, political and economic codes. The works in the “Mini-Mall” series at first seem like found signage but these flat forms are a means to deeper meanings. Similar to mass-produced plastic advertisements located in front of urban or suburban malls, the language, design, structure and materials (Plexiglas, enamel paint and powder-coated aluminum) mimic actual signage.
As Tim Lee has written, “Lum is an artist who makes a project of professionally producing non-professional graphic design.” The artist projects the subjectivities behind the facade of collective sign forms. This represents conceptual constructs: specific communities of businesses identified by the mini-mall sign form may be nothing more than a random cluster of businesses. Empty spaces in the “Mini-Mall” sign blanks may signify future trade opportunities as well as enterprises that have gone bankrupt. Lum presents the precarious socio-economic nature of the situation while the viewer reconstructs a mental picture of a credible community.
Lum’s works have been shown widely internationally including at the Carnegie International, Sydney Biennale, Sao Paulo Biennial, Shanghai Biennale, Documenta XI and the Johannesburg Biennale. His public works are on view in Vienna, Vancouver, St. Moritz, Utrecht, Toronto and Saint Louis, and will also be shown in the 2014 Whitney Biennial opening March 7.
Lum is the director of the undergraduate Fine Arts program at the University of Pennsylvania and is represented by Marc Jancou Contemporary in New York.
This exhibit has been selected for discussion in “The Review Panel Philadelphia,” a critical review platform organized by ArtCritical that brings together critics to conduct live reviews of current shows in Philadelphia before an audience at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and is recorded for later podcast. “The Review Panel Philadelphia” will take place on Wednesday, February 19 from 6 to 8 p.m. in PAFA's Historic Landmark Building located at 118 North Broad Street.
This exhibition is free and open to the public.Anderson Hall
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