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Shinique Smith: Menagerie

January 22, 2011 – May 28, 2011

installation view of Shinique Smith: Menagerie featuring a variety of abstract sculptures and paintings
Photo by Joe De Maio. © Joe De Maio.
installation view of Shinique Smith: Menagerie featuring a variety of abstract sculptures and paintings
Photo by Joe De Maio. © Joe De Maio.
installation view of Shinique Smith: Menagerie featuring a variety of abstract sculptures and paintings
installation view of Shinique Smith: Menagerie featuring an abstract sculpture near the center of the photo and paintings on the wall
installation view of Shinique Smith: Menagerie featuring an abstract sculpture at the forefront of the photo, and a group of visitors and additional abstract sculptures in the distance

Overview

In her first large-scale museum exhibition, multimedia artist Shinique Smith will build on previous museum installations to present a major exhibition that includes works on paper, paintings, and three-dimensional works from the breadth of her career. Menagerie presents almost fifty installations, paintings, photographs, sculptures, and works on paper, as well as two videos. Trained as an art educator as well as a visual artist, Smith will also work with Madison high school students to create a site-specific work for the exhibition; this work will be tied directly to the objects and ephemera of the Madison community.

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.

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.”


About Shinique Smith

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Smith garners inspiration from the world around her. Riffing on found images and objects—from photographs of teen heart throbs to old t-shirts—Smith creates large-scale installations, collages, and drawings. 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.

Some of her works combine calligraphic lines with expressions derived from everyday materials; an example is Juice on the Loose, a work she created using household bleach on denim. Other works incorporate large bundles of discarded clothing, as with Their First Bundle which shows floral print shirts bound by flannel button-downs to reference couples and shared items. Often arranged by color, these kinds of works play on explorations of the color palette by canonical artists, while also commenting on the detritus of our consumer society. Using positive and contemplative associations, Smith’s works probe the schizophrenic underpinnings of our society and focus the viewer’s attention on aesthetics, style, and meaning.


Exhibition Support

Shinique Smith: Menagerie is part of MOCA-North Miami’s Knight Exhibition Series. Additional support provided by Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz, and Funding Arts Network. The exhibition was on view at MOCA-North Miami from September 16 through November 19, 2010.

The Madison presentation of Shinique Smith: Menagerie has been made possible by generous funding from the John A. Johnson Fund, a component fund of the Madison Community Foundation; the MG&E Foundation; an anonymous gift; the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission; the CUNA Mutual Group; Bruce Rosen and Diane Seder; the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club; a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts; and the Art League of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.