Project Room

Lewis Colburn:
A Fountain for a Dark Future

Press Release
Opening Reception

Locust Projects presents A Fountain for a Dark Future, a new installation by Philadelphia-based artist Lewis Colburn. The exhibition opens to the public with a reception on Thursday, September 9 from 6-8pm, and is on view through November 6, 2021 Wednesdays-Saturdays from 11am-5pm. Admission is free.

Blending digital and manual making processes, robotic elements, and a series of water pumps, the massive, improvised fountain at the center of A Fountain for a Dark Future alludes to disruptive events on the human horizon such as sea level rise, automation, and the rise of authoritarianism. The fountain is a larger than life recreation of Umberto Boccioni’s iconic sculpture, Unique Forms of Continuity in Space of 1913 which captured the dynamism and energy of the modern world which fascinated the Italian Futurists. Futurists also harbored darker tendencies, celebrating war and destruction as “cleansing forces” which Colburn compares to the “move fast and break things” ideology expounded in contemporary Silicon Valley. Similarly, the artist sees the embrace of Mussolini by the Futurists as echoing the recent electoral successes of authoritarian right-wing ideology around the world.

Colburn’s recreation was first 3D modeled in CAD, allowing the artist to then carve molds from foam using a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) router. These molds were then used onsite to cast the monumental form from gypsum cement.

The massive sculpture, which resembles a blurred figure in motion, is surrounded by a complex scaffold of aluminum rods, upon which are mounted Arduino Braccio robot arms that reach out to repeatedly stroke and clean the sculpture. The feet of the sculpture rest in elevated interconnected plastic trays through which water circulates, creating a water feature reminiscent of public fountains. In this way the “cleansing forces” referenced by Futurist ideology are made not only literal, but automated, removing the human touch.

In the current moment of compounding and interconnected crises, the work suggests a sterile, atomized and inhuman future which may await us if we, collectively, allow these catastrophes to play out to their logical conclusions.


Artist Statement: At best, objects make unreliable tour guides. They cannot argue with the narratives we imagine for them. As a maker of sculpture, I am interested in the ways we re-interpret and re-create the past through the filter of our current experience. These re-tellings also manifest themselves as objects: the museum replica, the diorama, or now the dizzying selection of globby 3D scans available online. These found and copied objects, along with their simulacra, are the jumping-off points for my projects.

Working with these historical forms draws on the contemporary sense that the pace of both progress and retrograde political motion is wildly accelerating, in tandem with a profound de-stabilization of previously monolithic forms and ideas. I re-create the sculptural forms of the past to interrogate the conditions of the present, examining the ways these artifacts reinforce and shape narratives that persist today.

Selected solo exhibitions include: The Best of All Possible Worlds, Penn State Abington Art Gallery, Abington, PA (2019); A Total Collapse, Intuitive Art Space, Philadelphia (2018); A Broken Index South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China (2017); two hundred forty­one years VisArts, Rockville, MD (2017); Early America Haas Gallery, Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, PA (2017); Fall Solos 2016 Arlington Arts Center, Arlington, VA (Juried, solo, 2016); Scenes for Empty Rooms Glen Foerd Mansion, Philadelphia (2016); Early America School 33 Art Center, Baltimore (2016); Wind Challenge 1 Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia (Juried, solo, 2015); Three Museum Objects Göcseji Museum, Zalaegerszeg, Hungary (2015); On This Site NAPOLEON, Philadelphia (2014). Selected recent group exhibitions include:  Extra Parts, Good Children Gallery, New Orleans (2019);  RULERS, Coco Hunday, Tampa, FL (2019);  Democratic Vistas: Whitman, Body and Soul, Stedman Gallery, Rutgers University, Camden, NJ (2019); At The Same Time, Goggleworks Center for the Arts, Reading, PA with NAPOLEON (2019); The Persistence of History, New Jersey City University, Jersey City (2018);  Locust 20/20, Locust Projects, Miami (2018);  Smoke and Mirrors Torrance Art Museum, Torrance, CA (2018); Where The Artists Are, Pearlstein Gallery, Drexel University, Philadelphia (2018). Colburn graduated in 2009 with a Masters in Sculpture at Syracuse University, and received a Bachelors in 2005 in Studio Art and Russian Language from St. Olaf College.

The artist speaks about his exhibition and experience at Locust Projects in this video by Wet Heat Project

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