Martha Colburn (b. 1971, Gettysburg, PA) lives and works in New York, NY and Amsterdam, NL. She earned a MA from Rijksakademie Van Beeldende Kunsten, Amsterdam, NL and a BA from Maryland Institute of Art, Baltimore, MD. She is the recipient of numerous awards, grants and residencies including the Rema Hort Mann Award, the Sarah Lawrence College Film Award, the Kenneth Patchen Award, the New York Foundation of the Arts Grant, the New York Council for the Arts Grant, the Experimental Television Grant, the Jerome Foundation Film Grant and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Grant. The artist is represented by Horton Gallery in New York, where she has been featured in a solo show and two group shows, and Galerie Diana Stigter in Amsterdam, NL

Martha Colburn is best known as a filmmaker, animator, and multimedia artist who employs a variety of techniques, including puppetry, collage, and paint-on-glass. In her pursuit to examine issues of history, politics, sexuality, consumerism, and popular culture, Colburn presents narratives propelled with frenetic urgency. As a notable musician, she has also released six records with Jason Willet as The Dramatics and collaborated with numerous musicians and artists, including Yamatsuka Eye and Jad Fair. Among her most recent projects are music videos for Deerhoof and They Might Be Giants as well as an animation for the feature film The Devil and Daniel Johnston.

Notable Exhibitions, Screenings and Performances:

Martha Colburn, Columbus College of Art & Design, Columbus, OH
Adults in the Dark: Avant-Garde Animation, Museum of Arts and Design, New York, NY
Collage in Motion, Los Angeles Contemporary Art Museum, Los Angeles, CA
New Media Series—Martha Colburn: Triumph of the Wild, St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO
Martha Colburn: Dolls vs. Dictators, Museum of the Moving Image, Long Island City, NY
Bending the Mirror, Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus, OH
The Air We Breathe, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Martha Colburn, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Puppets Take No Prisoners, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
The Dissolve, SITE Santa Fe Eighth International Biennial, NM
Video Art Replay Part 2: Everyday Imaginary, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA
Retrospective, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA
Animamix Biennial 2009-2010, Museum of Contemporary Art Shanghai, CN
Power to the Puppets: Films by Martha Colburn, Phillis Wattis Theater, San Francisco
Museum of Modern Art, CA
Bombs Over Bambi, Artists Space, New York, NY
Futurist Life Redux, Anthology Film Archives, New York, NY
Art Statements, Art Basel, Switzerland (with Galerie Diana Stigter)
TERRE D'ACCUEIL, TERRRE D'EXIL, Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR
K48 Priznbreak, The Kitchen, New York, NY
Don’t Kill the Weatherman, Rosenbach Museum & Library, Philadelphia, PA
GOLD performance, Museum Contemporary Art, Detroit, MI
Imagined Worlds, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, NY
Initial Public Offerings Series, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
Peekskill Project, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Hudson, NY
Undo Redo, Kunsthalle Friedericianum Kassel, DE
Imagining Ourselves, International Museum of Women, San Francisco, CA
Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, NY
Traveling Tales, Aratoi Wiararapa Museum of Art and History, Masterton, NZ
TERRITORIA, The Luigi Pecci Centre for Contemporary Art, Prato, IT
Doc Films, “The New Animation”, The University of Chicago, IL
Luggage, Nanjing Art Institute Gallery, Nanjing, CN
Thanatophobia, Illuseum, Amsterdam, NL

Press Mentions:

"Perhaps the most exciting idea spewed at me by Colburn's exhibition is the notion that death itself has been robbed of its power, especially in our culture, with its seething obsession with youth, celebrity, and pleasure...But what does it really mean to dance with death? In a lot of contemporary art it just comes off as a cynical orgy on the eve of an apocalypse- but something more radical is at work in Colburn's bright carnage. Death is a force unto itself, insofar as it is an aspect of life that doesn't originate in human culture. The way it disposes of the homicidal despots in Colburn's films suggest a righteous slapstick of the ages. Lives poisoned by plastic surgery, toxic rivers and flammable tap water (Cosmetic Emergency, 05; Anti-Fracking Film for WBAI, 11) are tossed straight into its cartoon abyss, raising the imperatives of activist art to a fever pitch through the manic panic colors of a good acid trip or a vivid bad dream." - Ariana Reines, "Vision", FilmComment, January - February 2013.

“The Pennsylvania born artist is known for her creative use of Super 8 stop motion animations, crafting scenes between battle and ballet. Paper dolls emerge, multiply, grope, bleed and slip away as with the rhythm of a synchronized swimming routine. The moving collages contain DIY roughness to them, yet also an unplaceable magic that mystifies their construction,” – ___, “Martha Colburn Shares Her Animated Video ‘One and One is Life’”, Huffington Post, May 2012.

“Martha Colburn’s stop-motion animated films are often not easy to watch. Frenetic, short and full of violence, they are the product of a laborious technique that combines found imagery with the artist’s own colorful, painted and drawn cut-paper figures and landscapes, set to propulsive soundtracks.” – Brian Boucher, “In the Studio: Martha Colburn”, Art in America, April 2011.

“Like all great miniaturists, Colburn materializes time and concentration; unlike most, her forms do not reassure us with presupposed order. The films resemble 24-frames-per-second tornados, atomizing rifts opened by cigarette advertising, pornography, television…” – Max Goldberg, “Stop Making Sense: Martha Colburn’s Anxious Animations”, Cinema Scope, 2009.

“Martha Colburn’s truly fantastical filmic collages layer found and original imagery into animations that rarely feature words, but are so densely packed with colliding and combining fragments that the narrative advances visually. She has said that working with animation allows for seeing the unseen, and her collage techniques maximize the subversive potential of juxtaposition with wit and bite.” Elizabeth Thomas, “Bending the Word, Matrix 226”, Bending the Word Catalog, University of California Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2008.

“Heads with legs, flying limbs and hybrids of humans, animals and objects—since 1994, collage artist Martha Colburn has presented an infinite parade of grotesque creatures in her short but hyperactive—and humorous—animation films. Sexual deviation, cosmetic surgery and the Red Light District of Amsterdam are among the subjects she has dissected. So it seems only natural for the American artists to tackle the War on Terror with another visual and auditory bobardment.” – ___, “Short List”, Amsterdam Weekly, May 2007.

"The uniqueness of Martha Colburn, to me, is the explosive energy and craft with which she brings up-to-date, and pushes further, the film form of found-image-collage established by Stan Vanderbeek and Dick Preston in the Sixties. She has invented her own techniques and language that permits her to fuse the grotesque images of our popular civilization as produced by our image industries, to make film songs of universal sadness of our times. Bordering on the outrageous, crackling frame energy, Martha Colburn films are naked testimonials of our times, and of her generations." - Jonas Mekas, Alternative Visions, 2000.

Notable Collections:

The Chadha Art Collection, London, GB and Amsterdam, NL
Frans Hals Museum de Hallen, ND
The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Overland Park, KS
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Collection Stedelijik Museum, Amsterdam, NL

Photo: Mark Mahaney


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