Ken Lum: Death and Furniture
Ken Lum: Death and Furniture
FEBRUARY 11–MAY 15, 2022
Death and Furniture brings together a small but impactful career-spanning selection of work by senior, internationally celebrated Canadian artist Ken Lum. The exhibition uses as its starting point the new body of work, Time. And Again. (2021), in which Lum uses his characteristic image-and-text format to explore the intersections of work and stress, persistent concerns throughout our lives that came into extreme focus during the global pandemic. In addition to being displayed at Remai Modern, these works can be seen on billboards in the downtown area of Saskatoon as part of Lum’s public art practice.
Lum’s work has shown remarkable diversity over the course of his 40-year career. This exhibition focuses on selections that showcase the artist’s interest in how we make meaning for ourselves in a society that aims to eliminate individuality.
The exhibition title is inspired by two bodies of work: Necrology (2016-17) – a series of monumental, fictional death announcements – and the Furniture Sculptures (1978-ongoing) – living room decor turned into artworks through simple reconfiguration. “Death and furniture” is also a phrase borrowed from philosophy. When realists – philosophers who believe that things exist outside of our perception of them – argue with relativists – philosophers who believe that there is no absolute truth – they point out that “furniture” and “death” are two undeniable certainties. They are used as examples of things that exist whether we are witness to them or not, occupying the space of our shared experience.
Death and Furniture also includes the work Mirror Maze with 12 Signs of Depression — which was first produced in 2002 for Documenta in Kassel, Germany — and numerous works from his Photo-Mirror and Path Chart series. The use of mirrors integrates the viewer into Lum’s work through their reflection. The maze, like the mirror, recurs in Lum’s work, illustrating the difficulty of finding one’s path along psychological and emotional continuums.
Lum’s practice is based in idea-driven, Conceptual Art and the simple, geometric shapes of Minimalism. It is also deeply rooted in socio-political concerns such as class, ethnicity, migration and difference. These issues define Lum’s art and our shared experience in the contemporary moment. To engage with his work is to connect with the artist’s distinctive, humorous and astute view of the world; it is also an opportunity to think through how we each fit into the time we currently occupy together, and a space of undeniable truth.
Death and Funiture is on view at Remai Modern until May 15.
Ken Lum: Death and Furniture is curated by Michelle Jacques and Johan Lundh and co-organized by Remai Modern, Saskatoon and the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.