Yancey Richardson is pleased to present when the sky is a shape, an exhibition of new paintings and painted photo collages by Chinese American artist Mary Lum, on view from January 8 through February 19, 2022. The works in the exhibition deploy detritus gleaned from the urban environment as a foundation from which to explore the emotional, as well as physical contingencies of urban life, while also addressing geometric abstraction, perspectival space, and found language.
Lum’s large scale paintings derive from collage studies comprised of printed material, ephemera and photographs gathered during long, unstructured walks through the streets of London, Paris, and New York. Inspired by Guy Debord’s concepts of dérive and psychogeography, with a nod towards the experimental hypergraphics of the Letterists, the paintings combine fractured, stuttering text with architectural details and flat fields of color. As situationist improvisations, they convey the overlooked undercurrents of urban living. In Lum’s small, jewel-like painted photocollages, images of signage and storefronts are fragmented and stripped of their loci within layered, kaleidoscopic arrangements of color and line.
Using acrylic paint, paper, glue, colored pencil, watercolor, gouache, photographs, and house paint, Lum’s imagery and surfaces each contain a history—memories of other paintings and collages, sometimes visible as pentimenti, sometimes concealed. According to the artist, “Each image is a paracosm, an imaginary world constructed over time containing aspects drawn from everyday life that appear out of order. These are imperfectly imagined worlds where things may be awkward, crooked, out of place; too smooth, too rough, overly layered, or left bare.” Made during the pandemic, the works in the exhibition express the unsettled nature of the times and the artist’s longing to be in the cities she normally frequents. The sky becomes the shape of the window through which one sees it.
Mary Lum was born in St. Cloud, Minnesota. She received her BFA from the University of Michigan and her MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her work has been featured in Invisible Cities at MASS MoCA in North Adams, MA, and Tell It To My Heart at the Kunstmuseum fur Geganwartskunst in Basel, Switzerland. She has been the recipient of numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship (2010), the Radcliffe Fellowship for Advanced Study (2004-2005), and a McDowell Colony Fellowship (2018, 2012). She is a professor of painting and drawing at Bennington College, in Bennington, VT.