SPACE: Laurie Kang | Mother Always Has a Mother: Burnt Orange

26 January 2023 - 5 May 2023

Mercer Union’s SPACE billboard commission has invited artist Laurie Kang for its 2022–23 season for a yearlong series titled, Mother Always Has a Mother. Known for her sprawling installations and distinctive material repertoire, Kang’s practice is a dialogue with entropy. Elegantly disordered and richly layered, her site-sensitive works explore the relational bonds between time, personal history, and cultural knowledge. They seek to disrupt a human-centred perspective of the world with a broad curiosity for life and matter tangled in states of exchange that produce and are reproduced by their environments.

Sunlight, Kang’s earliest collaborator, accumulates and rewrites much of the photographic works for which she is best known. While materials like steel, silicone, perishable or manufactured goods assist as other forms of carriers. In Mother Always Has a Mother the artist offers something new, working for the first time with textiles to produce a series of three sculptural works that translate ideas of inheritance, loss, and lineage through the vernacular of seams, frayed edges, and folds. A deconstructed industrial grain bag suggests the pattern from which Kang assembles the works in this series in heavy cloth. Each edition features reproductions of renderings by the artist in photographic chemistry. Conjuring memory of her paternal grandmother, who opened a seed and grain shop in Seoul after fleeing North Korea, the artist contemplates the grain bag as evidence of an accelerated world. Mother Always Has a Mother considers what we carry by revealing the tension between conscious memory and embodied knowledge: one coded in time, the other in flesh; each in continual transformation.

The title Mother Always Has a Mother is borrowed from the chapter “Grandma’s Story” in Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism (2009) by Trinh T. Minh-Ha. Burnt Orange features tracings of images sourced of pine mushrooms, tangerines, the poplar tree at the JSA (Joint Security Area) in the Korean DMZ, and biofilm. — Laurie Kang

Burnt Orange is the second edition in the yearlong series; accompanying text by Diana Seo Hyung Lee to come.

Laurie Kang is an artist working with photography, sculpture, and site-responsive installation, whose work takes up the body as an ongoing process and environment. Recent solo and two-person exhibitions include Helena Anrather, New York (2021); Franz Kaka, Toronto (2020); and Oakville Galleries (2019). She has participated in group exhibitions at Cooper Cole, Toronto (2022); Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver (2022); The New Museum, New York (2021); SculptureCenter, New York (2020); Remai Modern, Saskatoon (2019); and Galerie Antoine Ertaskiran, Montréal (2019). Artist residencies include Triangle Arts Association, Brooklyn (2022); Horizon Art Foundation, Los Angeles (2022); and Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (2020). She holds a Master of Fine Arts from the Milton Avery School of the Arts at Bard College, New York. 

SPACE invites one artist to produce a yearlong series of images for a public-facing billboard located on the east façade of Mercer Union. Laurie Kang’s Mother Always Has a Mother: Burnt Orange (2023) is the second edition in a series of three billboard images commissioned by Mercer Union.

Kang would like to thank Laura Honsberger for production assistance.


Image: detail from Laurie Kang, Mother Always Has a Mother: Burnt Orange, 2023. Courtesy the artist. Commissioned by Mercer Union, Toronto.