Shinique Smith: Metamorph

Opening: Saturday, Apr 6, 2024 4 – 7 pm
Saturday, Apr 6 – May 24, 2024

451 N. Paulina
Chicago, IL 60622

moniquemeloche is pleased to present Shinique Smith: METAMORPH, the artist’s first solo exhibition with the gallery. Renowned for her monumental fabric sculptures and abstract paintings of calligraphy and collage, Smith’s wide-ranging practice operates at the convergence of consumption and spiritual sanctuary, balancing forces and revealing connections across space, time, race, gender and place to suggest the possibility of new worlds. Inspired by as the artist refers, her “magical childhood experiences” (from chanting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to tagging in a graffiti crew in Baltimore, to attending fashion shows in Paris and New York with her mother), Smith’s practice expresses the wonder, connections and ecstatic moments, that she as a Black woman, finds within textiles, keepsakes and sayings exchanged between her family, friends and travels.

METAMORPH refers to a process of changing form and nature. For the past 20 years, Smith has engaged ideas of transformation through material processes that include hand-dying and bundling gently loved garments into totemic bale sculptures, as well as exploring gesture and movement in her kaleidoscopic paintings and performances. Smith’s exhibition will debut a series of new large-scale collaged paintings incorporating fabric, brocades and embroideries that bring forth a sensual experience of color, light, memory, breath and motion. Reflecting on the complex networks of everyday life, fabric represents the connective tissue linking global histories of trade and consumption to the expanded language of how we describe our place in the universe within the fabric of time. For Smith, fabric and clothing are multimodal and self-referential materials in their ability to shape-shift, reveal and hold meaning. Through the ritual of bundling and tying cloth elements, Smith commemorates the ways we "adorn, wrap and shroud ourselves to symbolize our belonging and articulate the value of our existence." The artist has amassed a sizable collection of textiles and objects throughout her lifetime. Pattern and color carry both cultural and personal meaning to a place or time, to spiritual significance and to shared histories.

The exhibition further explores metamorphosis through the inclusion of collaged elements and large, sweeping gestures that are evocative of blooming flowers, whirling nebulas or a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis. As Smith describes, "unfolding, unraveling and dancing around the perimeter of the gallery, the paintings are a reminder that everything is in motion and constantly evolving." Like the butterfly, their evolution on this planet relates directly to the artist’s lifelong journey to grow creatively and spiritually through her personal research and travels. These dynamic compositions as Smith articulates, create a sense of wonder akin to "portals that lead to secret gardens," inviting viewers into ethereal realms where the poetic and divine intertwine. Language permeates the canvases through Smith’s emblematic calligraphic lines, becoming a principle of order and crafting ceremony in the process of making, akin to writing affirmations or creating prayers.

Through layered and transformative processes, METAMORPH presents intersecting forces of personal history, influence and vibrant energy as seen through Smith’s keen and emphatic lens. Reflecting on her journey of growth, the works on view create a world for herself that she can revel in and share, foregrounding the universality of the human experience and our desire to find wonder in the everyday movements of life.

Smith’s work can also be seen throughout Chicago. Her mural I Am Love (2017) is located at the Wabash Arts Corridor, 1600 N. State Street, and her sculpture Sunburst (2021) at the Chicago Transit Authority, 5960 W. Chicago Ave. Her work is included in group exhibition Multiplicity: Blackness in Contemporary American Collage, which originated at the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, TN in 2023, is currently at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX through May 12, 2024, and travels to the Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., from July 6–September 22, 2024. Smith's major solo museum exhibition Parade is on view at the Ringling Museum, Sarasota, FL through January 5, 2025. Smith will present a newly commissioned installation at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields this summer.