Abigail Smith '18
I am interested in the surface. Not as an artifice, but rather as the skin of the object that most reveals itself. My work uses found objects, purely for their formal qualities. I use color, shape and texture to connect the pieces to their surrounding environment. Color becomes matter and the materials defy the expectations of their everyday functions. I select domestic, everyday objects for their accessibility and to challenge the hierarchical structure, inherent in galleries and museums. If I am successful in subverting the viewers’ expectations, this body of work provokes conversations about form, function and the difference between real space and pictorial space.
Because the work sits between sculpture, painting and drawing, it continually repositions the viewers’ relationship to the work. Through the use of mirrors, the three-dimensional forms are flattened and give the allusion of collapsed space - reminiscent of a drawing. Simultaneously, the reflection creates a new space and it shifts, then shifts again. It slips into nuanced references to art, to ordinary life, and to what you might find in your closet. In this way, the everyday objects used in the work evoke personal memories and connections that the viewer may have in reference to the materials. Viewers get caught in a stream of references and contradictions between form, function and their own history of interacting with the objects presented. These conflicting dialogues cultivate an intimate conversation, between the work and the viewer, while evoking questions of function, relationship, and boundary.
The work is primarily about connections. These connections occur physically: where my work meets the wall or floor, where objects and materials intersect with each other, and so on. The excitement comes when something I make physically intersects or disrupts the interior space. These are internal connections because they are made within the work. I collect the materials from outside the work space, and then bring them into the studio to see how they react. When collecting objects, they are unrelated to one another and to the interior. I use formal relationships to connect them, often either by heightening what they have in common, or by exaggerating what makes them different. For this reason, my work is also very site specific. Where I place the elements in the piece and how I connect them in relation to one another, and the space, is vital. These relationships become inseparable, and give new function to the materiality of the work. All of this tension between medium, form and function fuels the way in which I work.
The work challenges the history of painting in the way that it asserts tension in hierarchy, materiality and function. In conversation with the history of painting, the work functions as both pictorial and actual space through the use of mirrors, paint and assorted objects. The work asks questions of what is real, what is important and what is urgent. Some artists that have played a key role in informing my work are Jessica Stockholder, Robert Rauschenberg, Chris Bradley, Richard Tuttle and Marcel Duchamp. The ways in which these artists select, use and manipulate materials has informed the way I create and interact with my own work today.
The work seeks to connect art to everyday life, subverting the viewers expectations of what art and life should be and how they exist together. Simultaneously, the work addresses questions about form, function, color and boundary; asking the viewer to pay close attention to their surroundings and to more closely examine how we perceive and exist within space. While acknowledging the mundane, chaotic and messy bits of life, the work simultaneously encourages playfulness, optimism and resourcefulness. Curiosity can present more than one solution to a problem and it can encourage a life of possibility and optimism. If we were more curious, we might find more joy in the mundane tasks of everyday life.