Sunset at Scum Pond
December 2nd, 2023 - January 13th, 2024
Michel Rein, Paris
Michel Rein is pleased to present Sunset at Scum Pond, A.K. Burns' 4th solo exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition showcases a selection of recent works from sculptures to wall works, and collages. Many of these works have recently been shown in Burns? solo exhibition Of space we are... at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH, a survey exhibition that spanned more than a decade of the artist's practice. A version of this exhibition will travel to the Henry Art Museum, Seattle, WA in fall of 2024.
Sunset at Scum Pond is experienced in the haze of the waning sun as the threshold of night lingers. The ponds reflective surface is muddled by the craggy and vital matter that collects on its placid surface. Under the darkening sky the waters absorb the last flickers of light into the murky void.
In Sunset at Scum Pond, the central works on display are a series of collages composed on the surface of mirrors that are presented in groups of seven. Each group corresponds to one of four video installations that make up the Negative Space tetralogy - A Smeary Spot (2015), Living Room (2017), Leave No Trace (2019), and What is Perverse is Liquid (2023) - an epic science fiction work that explores political potential of the void. The collages incorporate visual research informing various scenes depicted in the videos, with elements of print and digital sources providing an "associative atlas" that symbolically maps each work.
Also on view are Burns' newest works -Split Tongue (2023)- a pair of mural sculptures made from industrial black tarps transformed through a tailoring technique called 'rouching' that evoke the ruffled layers of a dress shirt. Formally, the works hold binary qualities - masculine and feminine - in one gesture that is split open along a central zipper. Appearing like giant bifurcated tongues they reference a larger shift towards polarizing speech that has created widening cultural and political divisions.
The Leak (2023) is a sculptural tomb for Chelsea Manning's military jacket. Chelsea Manning, an army intelligence analyst, leaked the largest trove of classified records in U.S. history. Manning was convicted in 2013 for charges including espionage, and soon after announced that she was a transgender woman. The jacket served as a prop or emblematic protagonist that appears in all four video works in the Negative Space cycle. The work symbolically references leaks or things that exceed strictures of containment, be it information or as the artist terms "leaky bodies", such as trans and non-binary bodies that defy traditional categorization.
On hands and buckets, Adaptive walker (medical boot), and Night Shift, (all 2022) are part of a larger series of sculptures that the artist refers to as "depleted figures". Each figure is formed from knotted or bent steel rebar and remesh that appear like lose line drawing in space. Both materials (remesh and rebar) are used on an industrial scale to reinforce concrete. Each figure includes only the extremities - hands and feet - rendered either literally in concrete or more abstractly through cast and ready-made household objects. As figures they lack a wholeness or true body, only the skeletal understructure remains.
A.K. Burns' work has been exhibited internationally at Palais de Tokyo (Paris) ; Julia Stoschek Collection (Düsseldorf/Berlin) ; New Museum (New York) ; Tate Modern (London) ; MOMA - Museum of Modern Art (New York) ; Sculpture Center (New York) ; The Whitney Museum of American Art (New York) ; MET - The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) ; MMK - Museum für Moderne Kunst (Frankfurt am Main) ; ICA - Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia) ; Leslie-Lhman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (New York); Portland Institute for Contemporary Art ; and Human Resources (Los Angeles).
Burns is currently a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. In 2021 they received a Guggenheim in Fine Arts and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Art Purchase Program Award, in 2018 the New York Foundation for the Arts - NYSCA/NYFA Fellow in Interdisciplinary Art, in 2016-17 was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University and a recipient of a 2015 Creative Capital Foundation Visual Arts Award.
Their work is part of prestigious collections as Museum of Modern Art (New York); Whitney Museum of American Art (New York) ; LACMA - Los Angeles County Museum of Art ; Kadist Foundation (San Francisco); FRAC (Pays De La Loire, Île-de-France, Le Plateau).