September 20th-October 27th, 2012
via Tadino 20, 20124 Milano

Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2012, Installation view
Fire resistant tubing, dried gourd, microphone, magnets, dimensions variable
Image courtesy of the artist and Galleria Zero, 2012
photo: © Filippo Armellin

Michael E. Smith is currently exhibiting his work at Galleria Zero in Milan, Italy. The artist tends to use objects in a context that removes any sense of recognizable purpose. For his solo exhibition at Galleria Zero his work engages several rooms of the gallery, but in a way where the space is occupied yet far from overwhelmed. It is fair to surmise, that he also gives an importance to air and openness. Smith, based in Detroit, Michigan, was included in the 2012 Whitney Biennial and finds a way to bring attention to nuanced details of a gallery interior. His artwork lends itself to surprise.

Stepping into Galleria Zero by way of an expansive courtyard constructed of dark stones and twisted leafy vines, one is immediately aware of a strange subtle change to the otherwise expansive internal space. Smith uses actual objects usually combined with others at a 1:1 scale ratio. Such is the case with Untitled, 2012, an embalmed catfish head, stuffed with what appears to be hay. The head sits atop an instrument, that could be a drill or something else. The original intention of each object is less important as it is granted with a new resolve, or what some might describe as an anti-resolution.

Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2012, Installation view
Hat and shell
Image courtesy of the artist and Galleria Zero, 2012
Photograph by Katy Hamer

When the direction, motivation and identity of contemporary art is contemplated, many critics and viewers alike are unable to come up with or invoke a particular definition or thumb print. However, there are two evident distinctions; one is excess and the other is nominal spatial intervention.  When thinking of the last twenty years, the global economy has expanded, collapsed and is constantly searching for an equilibrium. In the same way, contemporary art is a reflection of societal and cultural constructs. Michael E. Smith makes work that declares to offer something oddly familiar but then presents a hybrid object with new meaning. In the day of Internet memes and globalization, we are often reminded of the power and irrelevance of time in regards to communication. Whereas in previous decades and generations people were asked to invest a lot. Now they can come to his or her own conclusion as to how much time to invest on a particular subject or at a particular show. Time spent in actual space also competes with time spent in virtual space and the two can also sometimes intersect. However, almost as a performative gesture, not all work will translate via the screen. A viewer, if granted the opportunity, must enter into a room, smell the freshly painted walls or feel the damp coolness from untreated concrete and equate that physical experience with the visual one.  Such is the case with Michael’s work. While comprehensive via the screen, there is something very special about the negative space which is quite relevant to the work itself. As is the case with most art, the negative space, regarding installation, etc. can really effect the way a work is perceived. Being reminded of a particular piece at dOCUMENTA (13) by Ryan Gander, “I Need Some Meaning I Can Memorize (The Invisible Pull)”, 2012, is described in the accompanying label as “A gentle breeze pulling the spectator through the gallery space”. The room at the Fridericianum, was extremely large and at first glance appeared empty. Similarly, Michael E. Smith offers the challenge into interior space and what could be considered to be partially invisible. In both instances, the viewer is offered a test of his or her endurance and artistic interest. Rather than provide a linguistic diagram, the visitor must take time to compose a dialogue leading from a rich historical past to the present moment. As we flick through the pages of an Internet browser, scroll through an immeasurable amount of available text and images, the goal is to always remember to pause and think. Michael E. Smith takes a cue from artists in our recent past such as Joseph Beuys and the Arte Povera movement, but by recognition of particular objects relating to our time, is able to have a visual conversation that is all his own.

Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2012, Installation view in three parts
Pallet, pillowcase, saw handle, tank, antenna, spur and hood
Dimensions variable
Image courtesy of the artist and Galleria Zero, 2012
photo: © Filippo Armellin

More soon!