Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Space Between Scott and Plessy


Springtime is slowly emerging and a new season of art begins with a show that celebrates the Mississippi River and a connection between New Orleans and St. Louis. The collaboration between Longue Vue House and Gardens (New Orleans) and Laumeier Sculpture Park (St. Louis) features artists and works that will once again spark dialogue not only about about art and design but also history, society and social issues. One dramatic example is the work of Ken Lum, The Space Between Scott and Plessy.

Two columns, respectively marked Scott, St. Louis and Plessy, New Orleans are erected with ¾ bronze busts atop each. Dred Scott and Homer Plessy, loom large in the history of Civil Rights in the U.S. and Ken Lum challenges us to consider the shared history and context of our two cities. We are connected by a River and so much more. The busts face each other with room for a spectator to stand between them and perhaps ponder the struggle and bravery of civil disobedience and challenging status quo.         

“The work I made for The River Between Us is in part a commemoration. It employs historical reconstruction by calling up two figures from the past that are perhaps under-regarded or appreciated peripherally,” Says Artist Ken Lum in a show-catalogue published interview with Curator of Exibitions, Dana Turkovic. (The River Between Us catalogue) 

Ken Lum brilliantly calls attention to a timeline and historic perspective between two figures. Dred Scott (1795-1858) a slave and social activist who sued for his freedom and Homer Plessy (1862-1925), the plaintiff in the Plessy v. Ferguson landmark court case that challenged segregation. I find myself considering the space between these two lives, the space between our two cities and the space between these historic cases and human rights struggles in our time.

Kenneth Robert Lum (born 1956) is a Canadian artist born in Vancouver, Canada. He is of Chinese heritage. He works in painting, sculpture and photography. His art is conceptually oriented, and generally concerned with issues of identity in relation to the categories of language and portraiture. It was a pleasure to meet him and be among the first to see his bronze portraits in place at Laumeier Sculpture Park. Thank you, Ken.

Artist Ken Lum (shown above presenting the piece at Laumeier Sculpture Park). Scott and Plessy lived their entire lives with no overlap (between 1795-1927) and yet they are profound connectors between New Orleans, St. Louis and our own U.S. History.

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