Michael E. Smith, installation view Secession 2020, photo: Oliver Ottenschläger

Michael E. Smith

February 21 – September 6, 2020

Michael E. Smith makes sculptures, installations, object collages, and videos; he sometimes also creates interactive sound installations, conceiving of the gallery space he is working in as an active partner in the dialogical process of producing an exhibition. His installations open up a space of experience that addresses itself to much more than just our sense of vision. Integrating immaterial components such as light, sound, and habitual procedures, he seeks to sharpen all our perceptual faculties.

The development of new pieces and exhibitions typically starts in the studio, where the artist begins by producing “material sketches”: loose arrangements in which he tests things to explore their potential as vehicles of meaning. He does not finalize his works until he installs them in the exhibition setting, and many take concrete form only during this phase or even owe their existence to a moment’s inspiration. His shows are distinguished by the economical use of his resources and his keen awareness of the expressive force of formal interrelations. Carefully orchestrating the placement of his works, he arranges tightly composed yet dynamic constellations involving the objects, the spaces around them, and—sometimes immaterial—interventions. The concentration on few objects in the room creates an impression of capaciousness and emptiness—a metaphor, perhaps, for the loneliness and precariousness of human existence at large—that enhances the significance of each work and becomes an integral part of the art.


Michael E. Smith was born in Detroit in 1977 and lives and works in Providence, Rhode Island, USA.