The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Sep 08, 2011

"Continua" by Katie Murken astounds on many levels

Posted by CSchwartz

Emerging installation and book artist Katie Murken just opened her newest solo exhibition, entitled “Continua,” on the second floor of the Vox Populi building. When you enter the room, the octagonal space immediately overtakes you, not because of its shape, but because of its magnitude — and its color.

Stacked against the walls are piles of multicolored books reaching most of the way to the high ceiling. The meaning of these towers is at first quite mysterious; they loom overhead and the observer is content to stand amidst them and observe, even commune, with them for a brief time. Tall bars of fluctuating colors cross your vision no matter which way you look, and the experience is initially a little disorienting. Taking the installation at face value, it becomes quite majestic and serene.

Murken has, throughout her career, repurposed books from their role as reading material or informational tools into spatial forms that become mediums in and of themselves with all of their inherent implications lingering below the surface. In this case, “Continua” was constructed using recycled phonebooks, the ubiquitous and environmentally challenging not-quite-necessity we’re all familiar with. Turning these often invasive and unappealing tomes into a beautiful installation is both hopeful and relieving.

Katie Murken Process

The process used by Murken is quite complex and time-intensive. She figured out a way through which rolling dice and calculating the probability of colors appearing in a color continuum. As opposed to a color wheel or digital code, she could create a new gradient of related — and sometimes contrasting — colors. The 24 columns each consist of a totally unique scale of shades. Her final result is unpredictable and rhythmic and raises color to a somewhat mystical level. Realizing this installation is only one potential corner of color relationships, the unending march of colors and their connections to one another boggles the mind. If there were a religion based on color theory, this could very well be its altar.

At face value, Murken’s installation is a glorified color study, but like an iceberg, there is much more just below the surface. The use of analog-era phonebooks and the shades of environmental concern, the visceral and spiritual effects of color on the human mind, the play of rhythm and relativity, as well as the precision of mathematical probability in the face of the sometimes intuitive appreciation of color all come to mind. There are many ways to submerge oneself into Murken’s project and every one of them is probably right.

"Continua" will be on display through Oct. 7 at 319 N. 11th St., Gallery 2J;

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