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15 Apr 2013

Ludwig Forum Aachen presents Michael E. Smith

Untitled, 2009
Mixed media
29.5 x 31 x 18 cm
Courtesy Michael E. Smith
und KOW, Berlin
Photo: Alexander Koch

Michael E. Smith
Ludwig Forum Aachen


April 21 to June 23, 2013 Opening, Sunday April 21, 12 noon


+49 (0)241 / 1807-104
+49 (0)241 / 1807-101

Ludwig Forum Aachen
Jülicher Straße 97-109
52070 Aachen

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Factory ruins, overgrown by bushes and trees, deserted streets leading through abandoned residential areas: the cityscape of Detroit oscillates between evidence of the shattering failure of the mania to achieve continual economic growth and romantically idealized sublimity. Urban prairie: The former motor city has turned into a postindustrial icon of transience.

The perfect milieu for the young generation of artists who have moved into the deserted factory buildings. And it is precisely these post-apocalyptic cowboys roaming the urban prairie who for some time now have been causing a stir in the art scene. Michael E. Smith is one of them.

Smith, born in 1977, uses those materials he finds in his immediate surrounds: a satellite dish, a piece of garden hose, a broken CD. Remnants which he transforms into sculptures, paintings, video loops, or installations. He makes paintings by casting t-shirts in chapped synthetic resin, and he creates sculptures by stuffing the leg of an old pair of tracksuit pants, or dipping grass trimmers in oatmeal. Sometimes the original things he finds are no longer recognizable, deformed into amorphous clumps. And yet Smith always handles his material with respect, indeed with great delicacy. He responds to the aura of these now useless relics and turns them into autonomous entities, which although appearing peculiarly dysfunctional exude their own strong identity. Auratic and sympathetic, for example like the bundle of blue ballpoint pens which are held together by a snot-like smear of polyester resin.

At first glance one could have the impression that Smith is tracing the decline of Detroit in his works. But this would be too narrow a view. Rather, the becoming and fading away in this city, tangible everywhere, serves as the pulsating metronome of his work – and is mirrored in the process of his artistic creativity. Detroit is an inspiration, not a motif.

Smith is – and here, too, rhythm is of pivotal importance – a master in playfully configuring space. And he sees it as an important part of his artistic practice to arrange the works, to let them respond to and interact with one another and their setting. As Flash Art has put it, Smith is an artist 'who can fine-tune the dynamics of space'. The placements he makes to achieve this fine-tuning are extremely subtle, placements which at times seem almost incidental and are yet – underpinned by a keen sensibility for the spatial situation – precisely orchestrated.

At the Ludwig Forum Michael E. Smith will personally install the works he has created in Detroit for the exhibition in Aachen. A particularly interesting challenge in a former umbrella factory.

Michael E. Smith
Born in Detroit in 1977 where he lives and works. From 2004 to 2006 he studied at Detroit's College for Creative Studies (CCS). In 2008 he completes his studies in Jessica Stockholder's class at the Department for Sculpture, Yale University. Since then he's been teaching at the CCS. Smith is represented in Germany by the KOW gallery in Berlin.

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