OVERLAND PARK, KS.- The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art
is presenting STARGAZERS, a new body of work by artist Shinique Smith, whose multidisciplinary practice includes painting, sculpture, video, photography, installation and performance. The exhibition opens this Thursday, April 21, 2022 and will be on view through July 31, 2022. STARGAZERS will highlight the breadth of Smiths practice, focusing on her studies in spirituality and spiritual identity; geometry, the cosmos and cosmic patterns; and the role of clothing and cloth in personal freedom and identity.
The works in STARGAZERS are doubling down on my focus of finding the mystical within myself and the everyday, continuing to explore materials signature to my practice, while asserting my body and presence as a black woman on my own intellectual and spiritual journey, said Shinique Smith.
Through large-scale calligraphic paintings, bundled sculptures that reference the human form, and smaller-scale, more intimate works, Smith builds a story of marks, words, and colors into a twisting, moving timeline. Exploring ideas of transformation and ritual through materials such as fabric, clothing, personal belongings, breath, bundling, collage and gesture, Smith has built a complex visual vocabulary that resonates on intimate and social scales. The exhibition features a series of large-scale works the artist made blindfolded during the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted across the United States, as she sought for a feeling of freedom and release. The work is layered, colorful and vivid, even riotous in its palette. Other paintings utilize collage, working fabric into the abstractions. Her large-scale sculptures are delicate, laborious hand-made cloth-based work that are bundled and tied, the ritual of making them imbues her work with totem-like significance and even bodily presence. Cyanotype tapestries also center the story of the body in fabric; the shadow of the artist herself is reminiscent in the work.
Shinique Smiths work addresses some of the heaviest topics of contemporary life with a metaphorical richness, a lightness of touch, with joy discerned through the gloom. This work starts with historical and literary research, and culminates in transcendence, said JoAnne Northrup, Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art. The fact is, the ability to breathe is a privilege, whether because of oppressionor respiratory illness, as in the pandemic.
Smiths film Breathing Room: Moon Marked Journey, a new time-based performance work that highlights breath as an uplifting medium and ritual tool for transformation. In the film, women practice endurance breathing, creating a cacophony of breath that creates a chorus. Centered in the work is Smiths ongoing investigation of clothhand-dyed fabrics and bleached fabricsand use of the historically-fraught material as a narrative tool; layered in her work is the knowledge that indigo cloth was once a cash crop alongside cotton. She bundles and unravels herself and her subjects, and sometimes her sculptures, highlighting the body and the compression of the body. Smith sees performance as a multifaceted stage for catharsis. (The video evolved out of the artists performance at Open Spaces KC in 2018.)
In conjunction with the Nerman Museum exhibition, Smith will present a public performance on June 11 at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City as part of their Juneteenth celebration. This new multimedia performance, written and directed by the artist, will feature local performers and yogis.
STARGAZERS puts Smiths wide-ranging practice in dialogue and deepens the viewers understanding of her historical interests and her worldview. Objects that influenced her work and thinkingfrom small stones to imagesare even arranged in a miniature display as a means to tie the narrative around her practice together.
Shinique Smiths multidisciplinary practice includes painting, sculpture, video, photography, installation and performance. Exploring ideas of transformation and ritual through materials such as fabric, clothing, and personal belongings, breath, bundling, collage and gesture, Smith has built a complex visual vocabulary that resonates on intimate and social scales. Born in Baltimore, residing in Los Angeles, Smiths work has been exhibited by many prestigious institutions including Baltimore Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum, LACMA, and Studio Museum in Harlem.