Ken Lum is widely acknowledged as having made an important contribution to Vancouver art and its reputation abroad. He is one of Canada’s most internationally exhibited artists and his work has been presented across Canada, the USA and Europe as well as Australia, Brazil, South Africa, China and Japan.
Lum now has a thirty year exhibition record which includes work in diverse media, among them painting, sculpture and photography. Throughout his career he has sustained a number of interests: a visual economy that intensifies the impact of his works; an exploration of the crossover between image and language; and an examination of the portrait with its attendant typologies and psychologies.
The new work he presented in this exhibition revealed a renewed interest in a Pop aesthetic and the use of language, aspects that have been emblematic of much of his work during the past two decades. As far back as the early 1980s he drew upon corporate logos and typefaces that are common to advertising in general. His current work is striking in its simulation of commercial signage. Here, he references a specific kind of signage that is typical of modestly scaled businesses, those that populate suburbia or older, less gentrified commercial thoroughfares. In Lum’s work, the assumption that a sign promotes only a product is disrupted by the proprietor’s need for personal expression – thus these signs serve both as mercantile announcements and portraits, or as Michael Turner suggests in the catalogue text for this exhibition, from a public display of information promoting private business to information that could be considered too private or too political for public view. The apparent simplicity of these works is deceptive. They are embedded with references to popular culture, mercantilism, politics, and daily life. His work is also humorous, but it is of a kind that makes us question why one might be laughing.
This was the first exhibition featured at the opening of the CAG in its new facility at 555 Nelson Street and was sponsored by BMO Harris Private Banking.