Shinique Smith: Menagerie
January 22, 2011 to May 8, 2011

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.”

An MMoCA Nights opening reception for Shinique Smith: Menagerie will take place from 6:30 to 
9 pm on Friday, January 21. The evening will feature the artist in conversation with the museum’s curator of exhibitions Jane Simon, who organized the exhibition for MMoCA, at 7 pm in the museum’s lecture hall.

Shinique Smith: Menagerie was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Florida (MOCA-North Miami), in association with MMoCA, and was curated by MOCA-North Miami’s executive director and chief curator, Bonnie Clearwater. An illustrated catalogue co-published by MOCA-North Miami and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art features essays by Bonnie Clearwater, Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), and Jane Simon.


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.


Friday, January 21 • 7 pm
Shinique Smith in Conversation with Jane Simon
Shinique Smith gathers inspiration from sources as varied as the history of art, the global exchange of goods, and her life memories. In a conversation with curator of exhibitions Jane Simon, the artist will trace her developing imagery and the many influences that come together in her drawings, paintings, sculptures, and large-scale installations. Lecture hall. 60 minutes.

Thursday, February 3 • 12:30 pm
Shinique Smith and Global Materialism 
Jane Simon, MMoCA’s curator of exhibitions, will speak on Shinique Smith’s exploration of global materialism and the growing impacts of consumer-driven economies. Main galleries. 30 minutes.

Friday, March 4, • 6:30 pm
Transatlantic Things: Shinique Smith’s Sculpture
Lauren Kroiz will explore Smith’s distinctive use of clothing as material. Considering topics ranging from cotton’s historic role in transatlantic exchange to our personal relationships with our things, Kroiz examines the transformative power of sculpture.

Lauren Kroiz is an assistant professor of art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her first book manuscript, a study of early American modernism, race, and medium specificity, has recently been awarded the Phillips Book Prize from the Phillips Collection Center for the Study of Modern Art. Main galleries. 30 minutes.