LondonMichael E. Smith
Modern Art presents a solo exhibition of new work by Michael E. Smith at its Helmet Row gallery. This is Smith’s second solo exhibition with Modern Art.
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The raw materials of Michael E. Smith’s works are familiar, mostly mass-produced things: frying pans, plastic toy sleds, items of clothing, as well as organic matter, such as dried fish, bones, or popcorn. And yet, his works – made through a meditative consideration of how these materials are combined together in a room – convey something far more remote and off kilter. The social histories of these objects may suggest the fleeting enjoyment of livelier times: the spoils of a nondescript consumerist lifestyle. Now in their afterlives, typically installed in a dimly lit gallery, fixed to the wall or lying lifeless on the floor, they carry a different meaning. They convey in muted tones, and often with a hint of dry humour, the bleak wisdom of the damaged world from which they have come. As such, the time of Smith’s exhibitions is strangely displaced. His works and their component parts are at once like castaways, relics of past eras, while also being composed of the very stuff of today’s world; leaving the time of their present existence somewhere else quite other.
Michael E. Smith grew up in Detroit. He studied sculpture at Yale University in the class off Jessica Stockholder, and his work is born out of an appropriation and assemblage approach to sculpture as much it is in dialogue with the cannon of minimalism and conceptualism. The formal vocabulary of his works is testament to Smith’s devotion to the legacy of minimalism and its rigorous attention to the precision of objects and bodies in space. Yet Smith’s departure from these legacies lies in his focus on the social currencies of objects, their references to political and environmental concerns, and their potent capacities to evoke affective and emotional registers in the here and now.
Michael E. Smith was born in 1977 in Detroit, Michigan, and lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at institutions including Pinakothek Der Moderne, Munich, (2021); Kunsthalle Basel (2018); SMAK, Ghent (2017); Kunstverein Hannover, (2015); De Appel, Amsterdam (2015); Sculpture Center, New York (2015); La Triennale di Milano, Milan (2014); Power Station, Dallas (2014); CAPC musee d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, (2013) and Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis (2011). Smith’s work has been included in group exhibitions at Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2017); David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2015); MoMA PS1, New York (2014); Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (2014); and MOCA Cleveland, Cleveland, (2013). He participated in May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale 2019, the 2018 Baltic Triennial and the 2012 Whitney Biennial.
Michael E. Smith, Modern Art Helmet Row, exhibition view, 14 January - 19 February 2022. Courtesy: the artist and Modern Art, London.