October 9, 2015 – January 10, 2016
Solo Exhibition with catalogue at The Frist Center For The Visual Arts in Nashville, TN. The vision of the Frist Center is to inspire people through art to look at their world in new ways.
For the past decade, New York–based artist Shinique Smith has created highly expressive paintings, sculptures, and installations that reflect influences as diverse as dance, Eastern spirituality, fashion, Abstract Expressionism, childhood wonder, and poetry. Many of her collaged works contain recycled or reused objects, demonstrating her belief that personal possessions can inspire memories and shape our experience and identity. Yet such materials, particularly her bundles of cast-off clothing, also comment on the vast excess and waste in American consumerist society. The artist’s early years as a graffiti artist in Baltimore remain evident in her exuberant calligraphic strokes, which she often intermingles with worn materials from popular culture. Smith sees a link between graffiti and Japanese calligraphy, noting that “in both you can’t back up, you have to be self-assured putting the mark down…There’s no erasing.”
Shinique Smith first earned critical attention in the ground-breaking 2005 exhibition Frequency, a survey of emerging African American artists at the Studio Museum in Harlem. From this show, the term “post-black” emerged to describe artists a generation younger than those who came of age during the 1980s and 1990s, whose works often focused on racial identity and politics. Smith and her contemporaries often refer in their art to matters relating to blackness, but they also address broader aesthetic and social concerns.
A highlight of the Frist Center’s exhibition is a multi-paneled wall piece composed of rainbow-like fields of color. Although initially inspired by the minimalist Ellsworth Kelly, it is meant to represent a spectrum of both color and emotion in a manner similar to the theories espoused by Wassily Kandinsky in his treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1912). Like Kandinsky, Smith believes that each color can have a particular psychological impact and can reflect an individual’s inner state. In contrast to the rectangular “color wheel,” the other works in the exhibition are formed of swirling combinations of different hues in varying sizes and visual weight. The central space will feature a new site-specific mural that may be a combination of painting, sculpture, and projected light. The other galleries will contain roughly ten paintings—assemblages of such items as a fuzzy pink boa, a feathered arrow, and a reflective hubcap intertwined with the artist’s energetic brushwork—and four hanging sculptures composed of bundled fabrics. One bundle pays homage to a musical hero by including a T-shirt owned by Smith that reproduces the cover of Axis Bold as Love, Jimi Hendrix’s second album. The cover riffs on an Indian painting of the Hindu god Krishna, and the album’s title track celebrates the many shades of love, and by extension, the diversity of humanity.