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Foon Sham, Escape April 1 - August 13, 2017

A view down the center of a narrow tunnel, big enough to walk through, whose sides are composed of long planks of wood that curve inward, giving the tunnel a pointed roof. There are a few doorways to the sides, too low to escape through except by crawling

Foon Sham, Escape I, Tunnel, 2016. Pine, 14 x 62 x 5 ft. Courtesy of Gallery Neptune and Brown.


A sideview of the ragged ridgleline of this tunnel-like sculpture made of vertical wood pieces. Behind the sculpture is a sunny sky with wispy clouds.

 Foon Sham, Escape I, Tunnel, 2016. Pine, 14 x 62 x 5 ft. Courtesy of Gallery Neptune and Brown.


Outside view of a tunnel-like structure made of slats of wood. The ridgeline of the tunnel has jagged peaks and low points, and there are two small exit points along its side.

Foon Sham, Escape I, Tunnel, 2016. Pine, 14 x 62 x 5 ft. Courtesy of Gallery Neptune and Brown.


Exhibition Description

Foon Sham is a master of wood sculpture. To be within one of his vessel sculptures is to experience the palpable space of a woodland creature's habitat, or the concealed space of someone wanting to hide. For the Escape exhibition at the American University Museum, he has built two tunnels, one horizontal measuring 62 feet long, the other vertical towering 36 feet high. Escape is one of a series of participatory sculptures, begun in the 1990s, meant to be experienced with all the body's senses and to resonate socially. Dualism, as in the Taoist yin/yang dichotomy, is a consistent theme in Sham's work. Escape may be possible spiritually, if not physically. The outsider defines the insider. Darkness coexists with light. The yin and yang are complementary, two sides of the same coin.

The title Escape signals that a political interpretation is valid. The outdoor sculpture's craggy ridgeline echoes the mountain ranges of the American West and traces the line of the US-Mexican border. Without being politically prescriptive, the title and tunnel imagery evoke the hotly-contested issues of immigration and the plight of the refugee that figured so heavily in both American and European recent elections. The journey for the viewer of Escape may be short and sensory, or may be evocative of bigger issues like the death-defying travails undertaken by Central American and Syrian refugees. May each visitor find the way to experience this monumental work.

Related Events

Distinguished Artist's Lecture with Foon Sham, April 23, 2-3 PM