|Shinique Smith, The whole realm was his, 2010. Acrylic, rope, and found objects, 36 x 36 x 25 inches. © Shinique Smith.|
Text | Kathleen Whitney
Thoughtfully constructed in terms of relationships and arrangements, Shinique Smith’s freestanding sculptures, suspended objects, collages, and wall paintings are based on a formal approach to color, pattern, and design. Her works take on a number of related forms – totems, bales, swooping decorative gestures, and figures. Although the work is carefully orchestrated, it seems improvised and spontaneous. Smith has said, “I’m not attached to the final product, but I’m attached to the process of making it.” Both abstract and literal, her work involves viewers in three levels of evaluation: reading the materials as the raw things they are, estimating their social value, and considering their transformation and new juxtapositions.
KATHLEEN WHITNEY: Sometimes the work seems abstract, sometimes figurative. Do categories matter to you?
SHINIQUE SMITH: I’m working with a lot of abstraction, but I don’t set out to make something figurative or non-figurative – everything depends on what I’m working with and what happens as I go along. I want my work to be as open as possible. I have many pieces with furniture, dolls, and stuffed animals in them; sometimes those elements become part of a pattern of fabrics and colors, and sometimes they remain what they started out to be. I don’t believe in categories because they hold you back. I’m not avoiding reality, but I want transcendence and transformation. I want the viewer to see something new.
There seems to be a strong political and social narrative running through your work.
I’m concerned with three different things in my work: making something that’s beautiful, commenting on the social relationship people have with their possessions, and dealing with the politics of clothing. I’m not interested in irony; I want to have direct access to the viewer. Much of my work is politically motivated, but my intention is to make that interest ambiguous and subtle. I’m especially interested in the idea of “surplus value,” because the value of the worker’s labor and the value of the finished product are way out of balance.
|Shinique Smith, Untitled (Whistler's Mother), 2009. Clothing, fabric, ribbon, rope, twine, and chair, 60 x 45 x 34 inches. © Shinique Smith.|
Pick up a copy of the January/February 2014 issue of Sculpture magazine to read full story and view more images.