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Features / March 1, 1992

Ken Lum: The Discomfort Zone

At the fairly young age of thirty-five, Vancouver artist Ken Lum has a solid international reputation. His first New York show was in a 1982 group exhibition at the artist-run gallery White Columns. Since 1987 he has been represented by the prestigious Galerie Daniel Buchholz in Cologne, since 1989 by Galerie Rudiger Schötte in Paris and Munich, and by the Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York since 1990. Also in 1990, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam organized a touring mid-career retrospective of Lum’s work. This year, he was one of the only two Canadian artists included in the Carnegie International exhibition in Pittsburgh.

Although Lum’s history includes an impressive list of exhibitions in the U.S. and Europe, his work has had less exposure at home in Canada. Currently he is not represented by any Canadian commercial dealer. In 1990, however, the Winnipeg Art Gallery staged a major exhibition of Lum’s work. In the accompanying catalogue, Lum’s friend and fellow Vancouver artist Jeff Wall made a point of relating Lum’s background to his production as an artist. Lum’s grandfather emigrated to Canada from China in the early years of this century to work on the railroad. Lum was raised in the working-class east end of Vancouver, a neighbourhood that still serves as the source for his art and whose tradespeople have often been involved in the fabrication of his pieces. Like many children of immigrants, Lum was encouraged to better himself by making the jump from working in trades to having a career as a professional. He enrolled at Simon Fraser University hoping to become a scientist, but there he encountered Jeff Wall who suggested that he take his art seriously.

So begins our Spring 1992 cover story. To keep reading, view a PDF of the entire article.