Henry Moore Institute is delighted to present an exhibition of new work by American artist Michael E. Smith (born 1977, Detroit), made for the Institute’s main galleries.
Until they are installed in the exhibition, Smith’s sculptures exist as composite parts or what the artist calls ‘material sketches’. It is only when Smith arrives in the gallery, typically working out of hours, that new and complete works will come into existence. Critical juxtapositions are made between different materials, objects and the structures and functions of the gallery’s architecture.
Extracted from today’s relentless global workflow of production — consumption — depletion, Smith’s materials are familiar in their raw states and remain so once absorbed into final sculptures. Clothes, furniture, organic matter, toys, tools, objects from the home and from industry are commonplace. He researches his chosen materials to an extraordinary degree, examining associative histories and use value as well as their physical properties. With an engineer’s mindset, he tests them to their limits, squeezing them until reference and meaning almost buckle.
While there is art historical precedent within Smith’s object making (assemblage, conceptualism, minimalism) and his approach to institutional critique, these are departure points for a resolutely idiosyncratic way of working. His sculptures are reflections upon the strangeness of the impulses that gave birth to their constituent parts: global economic, environmental and political dis-ease. Bound to a recent history they float in a ghostly timelessness, off-kilter and imbued with unease and slapstick humour.