SEP 16 - DEC 16, 2018
In Ken Lum’s series ‘Necrology’, monumental posters display accounts of lives lived that blur fact and fiction while addressing the truths of mortality. Rendered in the style of 19th- century title pages, abound with a multitude of decorative typefaces, stark 21st- century stories unfold irony-laden commentaries of our time. These works chronicle lives of people such as Yasir Khorshed who advocated garment workers’ rights only to die at age thirty-four due to benzene exposure and a woman named Beryl who fought the government and multinational corporations to ensure safety on our roads but whose end is met at the hand of ravaging Parkinson’s disease. These fabricated biographies read like theatrical scripts. Using energetic language and intricate typography, Lum dramatizes the narratives as both a meditation on death and a celebration of life.‘Necrology’ was recently exhibited at the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts in San Francisco, CA, as part of a survey exhibition for the artist, What’s old is old for a dog, and will be on view at Royale Projects until December 16, 2018.
In conjunction with ‘Necrology’, the special project, ‘Four French Deaths in Western Canada’ also examines life through the theme of death. Replicating newspaper obituaries, the work showcases histories of four individuals who lived in France and died in Western Canada. Each person’s existence is condensed into a few brief sentences. Reflecting on the transience of humankind, the viewer is left to wonder who these people were or if they ever even existed; if Lum contrived these histories or found them.
Together these series exhibit the artist’s continued investigation of the construction of identity. Although produced for the deceased, obituaries are in fact more about life than death. They archive defining characteristics of an individual telling the stories that are crucial to their existence. Lum obscures the boundary between life and representation of it while leading the audience to question what aspects distinguish a person.
Born in Vancouver, Canada Lum currently resides in Philadelphia where he is the Chair of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. An innovator of post- conceptual art, the artist’s work has been widely exhibited since the 1970’s including the 2014 Whitney Biennial, the 2008 Gwangju Biennale, the 2007 Istanbul Biennial, Documenta XI and the 2001 and 1995 Venice Biennales. He explores issues of identity, immigration, language, and spatial politics through painting, sculpture, and photography.