Shinique Smith, Bale Variant No. 0017, 2009. Clothing, fabric, ink, twine, ribbon and wood, 72 x 52 x 52 inches. Private collection.
In her first large-scale museum exhibition, multi-media artist Shinique Smith presents site-specific installations, as well as two- and three-dimensional works created over the last decade. Shinique Smith: Menagerie presents almost fifty installations, paintings, photographs, sculptures, and works on paper, as well as two videos. The exhibition will be on view in MMoCA’s main galleries from January 22 through May 8, 2011.
Works included in Shinique Smith: Menagerie combine complex social and cultural references. They also demonstrate diverse art historical associations and techniques, including Abstract Expressionism, colorfield painting, minimalist sculpture, and Japanese calligraphy. Smith’s sculptures and installations are composed of found objects and second-hand clothing tied together in a variety of forms, including bales, totems, and reclining figures. Clothing and objects from friends and family also appear in her two-dimensional mixed-media works, imbuing them, like her sculptures, with personal meaning.
Smith, who grew up in Baltimore, Maryland, and now lives in Brooklyn, New York, finds inspiration in the world around her. She riffs on objects, phrases and references from music, literature, and popular culture. For example, her drawing titled Take My Apples, sketch (2005) shows a group of red tied-cloth bundles nesting together, surrounded by curly, calligraphic black lines. Smith uses both Western and Eastern techniques of drawing and writing in this poignant reference to Shel Silverstein’s famous children’s book The Giving Tree.
Addressing the theme of consumer excess head-on, Smith created Bale Variant No. 0017 (2009), a large block of black, grey, and white cloth. Smith and friends have written personal notations—partially hidden—on some of the garments. Using contemplative and enigmatic associations, Smith thus probes our culture’s contradictory underpinnings and focuses the viewer’s attention on aesthetics, style, and meaning.
Trained as an art educator as well as a visual artist, Smith will work with students from the Malcolm Shabazz City High School in Madison and the Middleton Alternative Senior High School to install No dust, no stain (2006) at MMoCA. This complex work, which includes sculptural and two-dimensional elements, is reconfigured for each new installation and demonstrates Smith’s ability to dissolve the line between the object and the surrounding architecture.
Writing in the exhibition catalogue, the artist describes the works on view in Shinique Smith: Menagerie as “meditations on writing, tying, ritualism, mythology, love, and human nature, on cleanliness as a spiritual concept, on what we create, consume, and hold dear, on my childhood, on my place in the world, and my romance with art and life.”
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 22.01.2011 - 08.05.2011