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Biography

Kris Martin is internationally recognized for a rigorous conceptual practice in which he addresses existential questions with subtlety and wit. Martin’s sculptures, drawings, photographs and installations reflect his ongoing preoccupation with matters of human existence and its contradictions. In his work Martin often makes use of the readymade; through subtle acts of displacement and with minimal intervention, he re-contextualizes familiar objects, infusing them with new meaning.

Martin’s poetic gestures range from the grand to the intimate, drawing upon icons of history, art history, religion and literature to fashion poignant meditations on mortality, faith and the human condition. For Whom, 2012 is a large bell installed in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden that takes its name from John Donne’s poignant verse which asks, “For Whom the Bell Tolls” before answering, “It tolls for thee.” Originally cast for a small church in southern Germany, the bell was left for salvage when it failed to produce the proper tone. Martin reclaimed the object and removed its clapper, effectively negating its purpose. Now the bell is programmed to sway on the hour, its silent rhythm creating what the artist considers a “blank space” where visitors can bring their own associations of bell-ringing, from a call to worship to marking the hour of the day.

To create The Idiot, 2005 Martin hand wrote the 1,494 pages of Dostoyevsky’s novel of the same name, replacing the protagonist’s name with his own; in another work he transcribed Franz Kafka’s novella The Metamorphosis onto a single page of paper, completely obliterating the text. In these works, as in all areas of Martin’s radically diverse practice, the artist explores universal themes of value, time, persistence and futility with a critical eye and keen humor.

Kris Martin, born in 1972, lives and works in Mullem, Belgium. Martin has been the subject of solo exhibitions at international museums including the Kunstmuseum Bonn, Germany; the Aargauer Kunsthaus, Aarau, Switzerland; Kestnergesellschaft Hanover, Germany; the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Germany; the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria; the Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg, Germany; the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, California; the Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado; the Museum Dhondt-Daenens, Deurle, Belgium; and MoMA P.S.1, New York amongst others. His work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions including the Museum Morsbroich, Leverkusen, Germany; the Louvre, Paris, France; the Tate Modern, London, United Kingdom; the Centre Pompidou, Paris France; the 4th Berlin Biennale, Berlin, Germany; The Warehouse, Dallas, Texas; the Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; the Zabludowicz Collection, London, United Kingdom; the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, Germany; and The Jewish Museum, New York. His work is included in prominent public and private collections such as the Burger Collection, Hong Kong; The David Roberts Art Foundation, London, United Kingdom; the Fürstenberg Zeitgenössisch, Donaueschingen, Germany; K21, Dusseldorf, Germany; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; the Olbricht Collection, Berlin, Germany; Sammlung Boros, Berlin and Sammlung Philara, Düsseldorf, Germany; the Stedelijk Museum voor Actuele Kunst (S.M.A.K.), Ghent, Belgium; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota; The Warehouse, Dallas, Texas; and the Zabludowicz Collection, London, United Kingdom.

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