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Michael Smith, Drawings and Videos (from storage)

Christine Burgin Gallery
243 West 18th Street, 212-462-2668
April 13 - May 12, 2007
Reception: Friday, April 13, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

This exhibition will bring together over thirty years of drawings by Smith accompanied by related videos as well as selections from the artists various collections.

Michael Smith first became known for the video and performance works he made in New York in the late 1970s starring, Mike, an everyman version of Smith himself. Like the other artists of this generation, Smith used appropriation in his work but rather than appropriate the images of the print media, Smith’s source material was television. In his introduction to a conversation between Dan Graham and Mike Smith (Artforum May 2004), Tim Griffin reflects on the nature and the impact of this work: ” In the early video It Starts at Home, 1982, the artist adopts all the formal hallmarks of situation comedy – the anonymous domestic setting, the instantly recognizable (i.e. barely developed) character types who regularly enter and exit the scene, the elementary editing style of hard jump cuts – but leaves them stranded on-screen as empty conventions since little, if any energy is invested in plot. Smith’s artistic alter ego, “Mike” has cable installed in his home and, due to a technical snafu, becomes the star of his own real time public access program – leaving audiences watching the utterly mundane life of a man who, never venturing from home, is continually confronted with the image of himself on television. Poker-faced parodies like this evoke multiple contexts, speaking to developments in both mass culture and fine art. On the one hand, they reflect 70s and 80s television’s deadpan spoofs on the variety shows of yester-year ; and, on the other, they play on the long-duration performances and reflexive closed-circuit video works made by Smith’s contemporaries.”

Over the years, Smith has collaborated with a number of artists: Doug Skinner for the puppet shows “Doug and Mike’s Adult Entertainment,” William Wegman for the video “World of Photography,” 1986 and, for the past several years with Joshua White for the large scale installations Musco, 1997, Open House, 1999, QuinQuag, 2001 and Take Off Your Pants, 2005. But through all of these works, “Mike” has remained a central element, exploring the territory established by Smith in the 70s. As Jerry Salz wrote in his 2001 Village Voice interview of QuinQuag: “A consummate explorer of the land of the loser, Smith has given this realm detail, life, and logic, while limning a fine line between reality and satire. Master of a genre that has been called installation verité… Smith is honorary mascot of the infinitely oddball aesthetic of off. In his conversation with Smith, Dan Graham further explains “Mike”: I think Mike is deeply related to this horrible thing we have in America – it’s both good and bad – called “individualism,” which leaves people very alone. The fact is that most of us are losers, even though we pretend to be winners. And America’s about winners…”
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