Mary Lum creates intricate collages, installations, and photographs that use the urban environment to explore geometric abstraction, perspectival space, and color field. She is interested in the margins of city life - overlooked details that she photographs in isolation and recombines within her work. Stairwells, signage and storefronts are fragmented and dislocated from their original context, only to be repositioned within Lum’s layered arrangements of color. Through juxtaposing disparate elements within her work, the artist aims to construct new meanings from the familiar and mundane.
Influenced by Cubism and Russian Constructivism, Lum is perhaps most interested in the concept of psychogeography, as practiced by members of the Situationist International movement in the 1950s and ‘60s. Referring to the effect of a geographical location on the emotions and behavior of the individual, one may see Lum’s interdisciplinary practice as a physical manifestation of this phenomenon. Derived from her experience of wandering the streets of Paris, London, Berlin, and New York, Lum combines fragments from advertising posters, her own photographs, and planes of bright color, alluding to the multilayered, transitory state of urban space. The city is presented as both a metaphorical and literal collage, composed of constantly shifting elements.
Mary Lum was born in 1951 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 exhibited in numerous institutions internationally including Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA; The Drawing Center, New York; Kunstmuseum fur Geganwartskunst, Basel; deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum; and Beijing Academy of Fine Arts. Lum 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 (2012), among others. She is a professor of painting and drawing at Bennington College in Vermont, where she has taught since 2005.