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Karyn Olivier

January 24, 2018 @ 11:00 am - May 25, 2018 @ 5:00 pm

Karyn Olivier, Wall, 2017-2018

Horger Artist-in-Residence for Art | Architecture | Design.

The Horger Artist-in-Residence is a semester-long residency that brings noteworthy talent to Lehigh University.  Every year the residency  rotates between the fields of Music, Theater or Art|Architecture|Design. This will be the inaugural year for A|A|D and the department is delighted to host Karyn Olivier.  In addition to the exhibition of new works presented at LUAG, Olivier will teach a studio class, and install a permanent sculpture on Lehigh’s campus.  Students will be working alongside Karyn, developing their own proposals and contributing to the permanent work on campus.

Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Karyn Olivier did not start out wanting to be an artist. It wasn’t until the age of 30, after a career as a retail manager at Urban Outfitters and Bloomingdale’s, that while working for artist J. Morgan Puett, she had her ‘a-ha’ moment. According to Olivier: “I watched this designer who really was the quintessential artist — living art at every moment. It was incredible to witness. I realized through watching her every day that life didn’t have to be compartmentalized — all of it can be imbued with art. A month later I quit my job, started a little business and began taking ceramics classes with the purpose of getting enough credits to go to graduate school”.

Ceramics classes led to graduate school at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where Olivier explored and experimented with large scale installations. Olivier is now known as a large-scale installation artist whose work manipulates ordinary spaces and ordinary objects. In the current exhibition, her work dominates the LUAG Main Gallery in the form of a brick wall imbedded with scraps of clothing, and a car cover stuffed with shoes.

Artist Statement:

My work explores the intersection and collapse that result from introducing conflicting histories and memories of the past to the continuously-evolving narratives of the present.

I use everyday objects, spaces, locations and images to shift our experience of the familiar. I want to reimagine knowns, which are assumed to be concrete and set. Can I confound what we presume to be fact about an object or space? Replace this with the unknown, revealing a new possibility? My manipulation (and sometimes co-option) of familiar objects and spaces points to their malleability—they are fluid and never fixed. They can be transformed and redefined through a simple gesture or modification or through engagement and action where their usefulness, value and function are reevaluated.

At times, I intervene in “blind spots” — the unseen and under-considered spaces that we occupy. I attempt to rearticulate these spaces as a way to declare presence, allow the public to claim, reclaim or define a site in a new way and expand/imagine what’s possible; I envision what new functions these might perform. The work sometimes asks for public investment, which pushes intimacy and perhaps vulnerability to the fore.


Karyn Olivier  received her M.F.A. at Cranbrook Academy of Art and her B.A at Dartmouth College. She has exhibited at the Gwangju and Busan Biennials, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Whitney Museum of Art, MoMA P.S.1, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, CAM Houston, The Mattress Factory and SculptureCenter. In 2017 Olivier installed a commissioned work in one of Philadelphia’s historic parks. In 2015 Olivier created public works for Creative Time in Central Park and NYC’s Percent for Art program. She is the recipient of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, the Joan Mitchell Foundation Award, the New York Foundation for the Arts Award, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant, the William H. Johnson Prize, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Biennial Award, a Creative Capital Foundation grant and a Harpo Foundation grant. Her work has been reviewed in The New York Times, Time out New York, The Village Voice, Art in America, Flash Art, Mousse, The Washington Post, Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Frieze, Hyperallergic, among others. Olivier is currently an associate professor and program head of sculpture at Tyler School of Art.

FEB 8    Join us for a reception to celebrate the launch of the 2018 Spring Exhibitions, LUAG Main Gallery, Zoellner Arts Center, 6-8PM. Refreshments.

APR 12   Karyn Olivier: Artist talk, Black Box Theatre, Zoellner Arts Center, 6PM. Reception to follow.

All LUAG events are free and open to the public.


January 24, 2018 @ 11:00 am
May 25, 2018 @ 5:00 pm
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LUAG MAIN GALLERY, Zoellner Arts Center
420 E. Packer Ave.
Bethlehem, PA 18015 United States
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