Michael E. Smith (b. 1977) transforms found objects into hauntingly sparse sculptures that reveal only the most rudimentary traces of their former function. Composed of natural and synthetic detritus, the sculptures are distilled to abstract, often loosely corporeal forms that highlight the tension between our affinity for excess and penchant for wastefulness. Smith's installations are immersive experiences, rather than straightforward presentations of sculptural objects. Careful consideration of the architectural and ambient features of the exhibition space is integral to his process, as too are the social aesthetics and politics of Smith's hometown of Detroit, which specifically come to bear on this exhibition, the first major museum show by the artist in his native state of Michigan. The implications of economic decline are unavoidable—Smith himself experienced its legacy firsthand-yet he avoids a clichéd narrative of urban ruin. He instead continues to draw upon the city as a rich cultural and material source. The sculptures, compiled of discarded remnants from our society, at once betray an intimate history of human experience and offer a larger critical perspective on our ecological, social, and economic structures.
Field Station: Michael E. Smith is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Steven L. Bridges, Associate Curator. Support for this exhibition is provided by the MSU Federal Credit Union.