Project Room

Lewis Colburn:
A Fountain for a Dark Future

A Fountain for a Dark Future is a new, installation-based work by Philadelphia-based artist Lewis Colburn. The piece integrates robotic elements, a re-created Modernist sculpture, and a series of water pumps to create a large-scale, improvised fountain. Through these combined forms, the work alludes to disruptive events on the human horizon, hinting at concerns such as sea level rise, automation, and the rise of authoritarianism. 

The central element of the work is a larger-than-life re-creation of Umberto Boccioni’s iconic sculpture Unique Forms of Continuity in Space. This work, created in 1913, sought to depict the dynamism and motion which fascinated the Italian Futurists. Futurism also harbored darker tendencies, celebrating war and destruction as ‘cleansing forces’. This attitude seems to rhyme with the ‘move fast and break things’ ideology expounded in contemporary Silicon Valley. Similarly, the embrace of Mussolini by the Futurists has an echo in the recent electoral successes of authoritarian right-wing ideology around the world. 

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



As a sculptor, Lewis is interested in the way we re­interpret and re­create the past through the filter of our current experience. These re­tellings also manifest themselves as objects: the museum replica, the diorama, the stage set, or the laboriously hand­sewn and fussily detailed garments of a reenactor. In tandem with these physical re­creations, a tremendous quantity of artifacts are currently being digitized and disseminated via 3D scanning. This remains at best a lossy process, though, with the results existing as a kind of dizzying virtual ‘cast hall’, echoing the endless plaster copies made from classical statuary.

These objects and virtual simulacra are the jumping ­off points for Colburn's 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 de­stabilization of previously monolithic forms and ideas. Colburn re­creates 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 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); The One You Know NoBA Artspace, Bala Cynwyd, PA with NAPOLEON (2017); Idle Hands: Further Adventures in Metaphysical Arbitrage: 100 Years of the Readymade Pilot Projects, Philadelphia (2017);  Print Think 2017, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Philadelphia (2017); Lost in Transit SOIL Gallery, Seattle, with NAPOLEON (2016) ; In/Dwelling: Meditations on Built Environments as Cultural Narrative, High Street Gallery, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ (2016); Far More Real Coop Gallery, Nashville, TN, with NAPOLEON (2016); Best of D’Clinic Studios 2015, VMK – Gönczi Gallery, Zalaegerszeg, Hungary (2016); Traction Company Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, with NAPOLEON, Philadelphia (2015); Woodmere Annual 2015, Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia (Juried, 2015); Other Selections, The Center for Art in Wood, Philadelphia (2015); Art in the Open at UCAL, University City Arts League, Philadelphia (2015).

Lewis 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.

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