Hales Gallery is pleased to announce Michael Smith’s second solo show at the Gallery.
Since 1979 Smith has concentrated on his prescient, tragicomic persona, the clueless and ever hopeful everyman, Mike. Mike, a.k.a. Blandman, has developed into an ongoing character in a series of comedic performances, videos and installations, and has become Smith’s primary vehicle for commenting on discrepancies in the social and cultural landscape. One is constantly reminded of recognizable models and formats, such as sitcoms, commercials, game shows and the Internet banners; however familiar, Smith’s work persists to be destabilizing, as it focuses on Mike’s plodding and inadvertent reflection on themes of failure and loneliness in our technologically sophisticated world.
School Work brings together two pieces of work most recently shown in the 2008 Whitney Biennial.
Portal Excursion (2005-07) is a 10-minute video piece about Mike’s quest for knowledge and learning after his introduction to MIT’s OpenCourseWare, “a free and open educational resource for self-learners around the world”. Mike is attempting to combine a long time interest in mnemonics with his newly found passion for on-line studies. Although his method for learning appears to be highly specious, it is clear he has figured out a way to cope with his mid-life struggle, keeping himself busy and fully immersed in the ever-expanding field of distance learning.
Over the past thirty years both Smith and his persona, Mike, have been ageing in real time. Smith’s ongoing series Sears Class Portraits (1999-2008) highlights this process more succinctly than in any other work to date. These photographs taken with his various classes at Sears Portrait Studios are both mementos and records of his teaching and ageing process. Each year his students seem to stay the same age whilst Mike shows sign of wear. This glimpse into the artist’s personal life through the ironic visual language of tacky studio photography subtly fuses Smith’s identity with that of Mike’s.
Michael Smith has an extensive performance and exhibition history that began in the mid 70’s. He has shown in venues as varied as The New Museum, MoMa, Carolines Comedy Club (New York City), Dance Threatre Workshop, Cinemax, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the Pompidou Centre. Smith has collaborated with numerous artists including William Wegman, Seth Price, Mayo Thompson and Mike Kelley, and for the past ten years has broken new ground in immersive installation art working in collaboration with Joshua White.
Smith has produced several artists’ books and an impressive collection of drawings and sketches that detail his creative process; many of which were published recently in MICHAEL SMITH Drawings: Simple, Obscure and Obtuse (NY: Regency Arts Press).