Ken Lum works with photography

Last weekend I went to the Ken Lum retrospective at the Power Plant. Ken's works are deceptively simple. The bulk of the work in this show are large photos paired with large colourful descriptive text. Gallery-going habits what they are today, it's tragically too easy to gloss over Ken's work which means you're missing out on one of Canada's finest photo-artists.

The Ken Lum works at the Powerplant are full of contradictions, complications, subtlety, ambiguity and context. A work like "Mounties and Indians," with its smiling First Nations family flanked by two sentinel like Mounties in red serge tweak some very interesting cultural buttons. While the work is framed like a souvenir photo it's hard not to bring on Canada's colonial history into the mix.

Works like "Steve" and "Melly Shum Hates Her Job" brings the ordinary nature of these people into a direct clash with artistic practice. After all, both Steve and Melly are now shown in galleries all over the world, decades after these photos were both taken.

I would've liked to have seen some of Ken's other work. I remember a series of faux storefront signs that he showed at the CAG a couple of years ago that were also great, but then I guess you couldn't really call the show "Ken Lum Works with Photography."

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