Events & exhibitions

Mary Lum: The Moving Parts (&)

Photo of Mary Lum's "Letter Parts 2"
Mary Lum, Letter Parts 2, temporary arrangement of cast ceramic letterform fragments, 5 x 5 x 4 inches. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo by Julia Featheringill

For this newly commissioned exhibition, Mary Lum has created an artist’s book and installation featuring photographs of temporary constructions made from a palette of broken vintage letterforms. The small constructions carry ideas about language coming into being and piling up on itself. Fragments are rearranged in attempts to communicate, to form something whole and understandable, against backgrounds of varying colors. Lum’s photographs, letterforms, and artist’s book appear with a selection of sketchbooks that present the artist’s mode of working through collage. All are surrounded by a large-scale paint work that envelops the gallery, the bars of color echoing the Corita Papers that inspired Lum’s publication Moving Parts (&).

Invited to work at the Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, with the form of language and archives as a prompt, Lum spent weeks reading and photographing the Corita Kent collection. Corita Kent, also known as Sister Mary Corita, was a Pop artist who taught at Immaculate Heart College in Los Angeles. She was a member of the religious order Immaculate Heart of Mary for more than 30 years and was well known for silk screen prints and exuberant imagery that incorporated advertising slogans, biblical verses, and social justice messages. Kent was also known for her revolutionary use of texts by chopping them into pieces, printing them backward or upside down, and projecting words onto three-dimensional objects. She left the order in 1968 and moved to Boston, where she lived a secular life while remaining active in artmaking and social causes until her death, in 1986. 

Lum’s process of making her artwork has a parallel in Corita Kent’s own. She quotes Kent in Moving Parts (&):
“I think I am always collecting in a way—walking down a street with my eyes open, looking through a magazine, viewing a movie, visiting a museum or grocery store. Some of the things I collect are tangible and mount into piles of many layers, and when the time comes to use these saved images, I dig like an archeologist and sometimes find what I want and sometimes don’t.”

Harvard Radcliffe Institute gratefully acknowledges the Johnson-Kulukundis Family Endowment Fund for the Arts, which is supporting this exhibition.

Please note: If you are interested in receiving a copy of the artist book, Moving Parts &, that accompanies this exhibition, complete this short online form. Note that, due to demand, we cannot guarantee that books will be available to everyone who requests one and will be in touch if a copy is being mailed to you.

For more on the Corita Papers, visit the Schlesinger Library’s online resources.

Join us on February 6 at 4 PM ET for the opening discussion of The Moving Parts (&), when the artist Mary Lum will engage in a wide-ranging conversation with the art historian Steven Nelson.

Podcast: “I Never Start with Nothing”: Mary Lum on Collage and Constructed Geographies (The Clark Art Institute, 12/9/22)

About the Artist

Mary Lum is a visual artist whose intricate collages, paintings, photographs, and murals explore the margins of city life, the history of abstraction, and the use of text as image. Her work has been exhibited in numerous institutions, including MASS MoCA, The Drawing Center, the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, and Oxford University. Recent publications in which her work has appeared include Modern Artifacts and Best! Letters from Asian Americans in the arts. Lum has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and MacDowell, among others.

The artist thanks the Schlesinger Library, the Art Study Center at the Harvard Art Museums, Olivian Cha from the Corita Art Center, Jennifer L. Roberts, and Steven Nelson for support and advice.

Exhibition Information for Press

For information available for use by the media, please visit our press page for this exhibition.

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