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Michael E. Smith

Main Galleries

Henry Moore Institute, Leeds

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Henry Moore Institute is delighted to present an exhibition of new work by American artist Michael E. Smith (born 1977, Detroit), made for the Institute’s main galleries.

Until they are installed in the exhibition, Smith’s sculptures exist as composite parts or what the artist calls ‘material sketches’. It is only when Smith arrives in the gallery, typically working out of hours, that new and complete works will come into existence. Critical juxtapositions are made between different materials, objects and the structures and functions of the gallery’s architecture.

Extracted from today’s relentless global workflow of production — consumption — depletion, Smith’s materials are familiar in their raw states and remain so once absorbed into final sculptures. Clothes, furniture, organic matter, toys, tools, objects from the home and from industry are commonplace. He researches his chosen materials to an extraordinary degree, examining associative histories and use value as well as their physical properties. With an engineer’s mindset, he tests them to their limits, squeezing them until reference and meaning almost buckle.

While there is art historical precedent within Smith’s object making (assemblage, conceptualism, minimalism) and his approach to institutional critique, these are departure points for a resolutely idiosyncratic way of working. His sculptures are reflections upon the strangeness of the impulses that gave birth to their constituent parts: global economic, environmental and political dis-ease. Bound to a recent history they float in a ghostly timelessness, off-kilter and imbued with unease and slapstick humour.

Michael E. Smith, Untitled 2021, wood. Image courtesy the artist and Modern Art, London.

About the artist

Michael E. Smith was born in 1977 in Detroit, Michigan. From 2004 to 2006 he studied in Detroit at the College for Creative Studies (CCS). In 2008 he took MA Fine Art as a student of Jessica Stockholder at the Department for Sculpture at Yale University. After which, he returned to Detroit to teach at the CCS. He now lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island.

Selected solo exhibitions

Pinakothek Der Moderne, Munich, Germany (2021)
Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland (2018)
S.M.A.K., Ghent, Belgium (2017)
Kunstverein Hannover, Germany (2015)
De Appel, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2015)
Sculpture Center, New York, USA (2015)
La Triennale di Milano, Milan, Italy (2014)
Power Station, Dallas, USA (2014)
CAPC musee d’art contemporain de Bordeaux, France (2013)
Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis, USA (2011)

Selected group exhibitions

Palais de Tokyo, Paris, France (2017)
David Roberts Art Foundation, London, UK (2015)
MoMA PS1, New York, USA (2014)
Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, Germany (2014)
MOCA Cleveland, Cleveland, USA (2013)

Whitney Biennial (2021 and 2012)
May You Live in Interesting Times, Venice Biennale (2019)
Baltic Triennial (2018)

Michael E. Smith preview evening
Photo of an empty gallery with high, white walls. Superimposed is the text 'An exhibition by Michael E. Smith'.
Part of Michael E. Smith
Part of Michael E. Smith

Opening night

Michael E. Smith preview evening


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Main Galleries
Henry Moore Institute, Leeds

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Henry Moore Institute

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74 The Headrow
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