Michael E. Smith at S.M.A.K.

Artist: Michael E. Smith

Venue: S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium

Date: June 24 – October 1, 2017

Photography: Dirk Pauwels, all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and S.M.A.K.

S.M.A.K. is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Michael E. Smith (1977, Detroit; lives and works in Rhode Island). This American artist makes sculptures and videos out of cast-offs, waste and other residues of our consumer society. His work seems to avoid any form of sublimation. His predilection for the absurd and for an indefinable tension ensue from a broader critical view of the ecological, economic and social challenges facing our society. His presentations are characterized by an intense yet sparse choreography of the exhibition space. Accordingly, they manifest themselves as site-responsive artworks exploiting all of the museum’s infrastructure. In S.M.A.K. Smith shows mainly new work in a sharp setup, with a strong focus on reduction.

The omission of as many superfluous elements as possible is a basic principle not only of all Michael E. Smith’s exhibitions, but also of the way he produces individual artworks. The artist often works with debris, animal corpses, video footage and artefacts that he isolates out of their original environment, and he then reduces their meaning until a semantic deadlock is reached. But instead of just erasing information, Smith is particularly focused on achieving a mute concentration on what might be essential, prototypical or elusive in the things surrounding us. His sculptural  transformations of them, to which he has recently added techniques such as 3D-printing, touch the limits of the organic and synthetic, of culture and nature.

Smith alters and arranges his works in relation to the space and given lighting situation. Often they only gain the status of an artwork during the process of installation. By making use of corners, the floor, and other unusual places in the museum, the works have a huge physical impact on the viewer. Smith frequently employs used furniture, clothes and other mass products whose original function was to protect us. Glued, stretched, connected together, illuminated with a laser beam or hollowed out, touched or transformed in some other way, they provide rudimentary evidence of their former function. In pointing to the body as a last refuge for comfort, warmth, and – fundamentally – for life, in all their sculptural precision they evoke a feeling of subliminal unease.

Michael E. Smith’s hometown of Detroit has become an emphatic metaphor for the decay of economic progress in ‘the West’, as a prototypical ruin of a traumatized American soul. It is emblematic of the dwindling of its working population, which was spurred on by the demise of the car and steel industries. But simultaneously Detroit is also a rich source of cultural resistance, freedom and alternatives, in fields such as Graffiti, Hip Hop and Jazz, by which Smith’s work is equally influenced. By considering his artistic activity as “drawing ghosts”, Smith’s work always looks backward and forward at the same time.

In the course of the exhibition, Mousse Publishing will release a comprehensive volume on the artist’s work, in collaboration with De Appel, Amsterdam, Kunstverein Hannover and S.M.A.K. Ghent.

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

Michael E. Smith, Untitled,  2017, Photo credit Michael E. Smith, Courtesy KOW Berlin and artist

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