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Htein Lin: A Show of Hands

Saturday, February 16, 2019Sunday, April 28, 2019

Installation view of Htein Lin: A Show of Hands, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, February 16–April 28, 2019. Photo by Tom Loonan and Brenda Bieger.

1905 Building, Gallery 5

From 1998 to 2004, pro-democracy activist Htein Lin was jailed for challenging the military dictatorship in his home country of Myanmar (formerly Burma) in Southeast Asia. Prior to his imprisonment, Lin acted in films and with a theater troupe. While behind bars, he continued to organize performance artworks with his fellow prisoners. He also used the humble objects available to him—such as cigarette lighters, bars of soap, and prison uniforms—to make more than 300 paintings and sculptures inspired by his experiences.

Detail of A Show of Hands, 2013–ongoing. Photo by Tom Loonan and Brenda Bieger.

After his imprisonment, Lin left Myanmar and went into exile in London in 2006, only returning home in 2012 following a series of political reforms. In 2013, he began work on A Show of Hands. This multimedia installation includes hundreds of plaster sculptures cast from the hands of former political prisoners from Myanmar, each accompanied by a card bearing information about the circumstances of the individual’s imprisonment. In this way, A Show of Hands allows each person to “raise a hand” and be counted as part of the vast community of people who have suffered human rights abuses. The artist plans to continue adding new casts to the installation as these abuses continue.

According to Lin, the experience of breaking his arm in a bicycle accident during his time in London led to his interest “in the art of breaking, fixing, and healing” and to the use of plaster casting in A Show of Hands. Both sculptural and social, Lin’s artistic practice offers individuals an opportunity to process the past by sharing their stories with others. As part of the installation of A Show of Hands at the Albright-Knox, Lin will travel from Myanmar to Buffalo, where he will cast the hands of former Burmese political prisoners from across the region. 

This exhibition is organized by Jennifer Foley, Director of Education and Community Engagement, and Tina Rivers Ryan, Assistant Curator.

Admission to this special exhibition is Pay What You Wish on M&T FIRST FRIDAYS @ THE GALLERY

Exhibition Sponsors

This exhibition was made possible by a gift from M&T Bank.

Equipment and technical support provided by Advantage TI.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s exhibition program is generously supported by The Seymour H. Knox Foundation, Inc.