For more than a decade multimedia artist Shinique Smith has employed new, used, and personal recycled clothing, fabrics, and objects such as bedding to construct towering bound sculptures, paintings, assemblages, and site-specific installations. Her paintings, that accompany her installations, are cursive and looping works that point to Eastern calligraphic traditions. Like her assemblages they operate at the convergence of consumption and displacement.
Smith, who recently relocated to Los Angeles from New York where she still keeps a studio, grew up in Baltimore. Her mother was a clothing designer and fashion editor. She went to fashion shows and fabric stores constantly. In high school she was part of an all-male graffiti crew, tagging walls at night. She applied her love of graffiti writing’s swirls to studying Japanese calligraphy as an undergraduate. She obtained her B.F.A. from Maryland Institute College of Art. She worked in the film industry for several years and then returned to school, earning her M.F.A. in 2003 from the Maryland Institute College of Art. While she started out as a figurative painter, she gravitated toward abstraction and sculpture, made from the bundling and binding of diverse objects.
“Refuge,” Smith’s first solo show at the California African American Museum, references landscapes of and for the displaced. The problem of homelessness and the use of private and public spaces for the homeless as well as the care and use of found objects are mapped in the gallery. Her bundles and paintings propose moments of abundance, rest, and reflection. The making of collage and assemblage explores ideas of hope, belonging, and sharing. Smith feels that we all belong to each other and have the capacity to build, shelter, and strengthen the ties that hold us together as a people.
She has had solo exhibitions in Florida, Tennessee, Boston, Virgina, and Berlin. Smith was in a group show at Hauser Wirth & Schimmel in Los Angeles where her massive installation of draped fabrics filled the gallery’s breezeway. Her work has been exhibited at the New Museum in New York and the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others. Smith has permanent works in San Francisco, Las Vegas, and New York.