Michael E. Smith’s sparsely arranged sculptures seem to have emerged from the charred landscape of a postapocalyptic, science fiction dystopia. A native of Detroit who still lives and works in the economically troubled city, he draws his raw materials from his surroundings, the detritus of urban consumer culture. A worn pair of flesh-colored sweatpants hangs limp from a lighting fixture, weighted down by a frying pan stuffed into one leg; an unidentifiable ball has been thickly coated in oats; a resin-hardened Hawaiian shirt alights tentatively on a ceiling vent like a moth. Smith creates art that reflects his physical environment, and often intervenes in the architecture of the spaces where his work is exhibited. He allows the nature of his materials to drive the creation of his art, inviting the finished works to determine their own dynamics and placement in the exhibition space. Rather than dismissing his materials as valueless debris, Smith grants them dignity and meaning; his carefully considered, self-contained sculptures allow them to step beyond their abjectness. Combining elements both industrial and personal, Smith’s sculptures are simultaneously intimate and repellent, evocative of a familiar yet alien landscape.
Michael E. Smith’s work is on view in the Museum’s third and forth floor galleries.