Alexandria Smith: Fake Gravitas and Dream Aborted Givens Collection at Gagosian New York By Angela N. Carroll , Editor at Giant – Sugarcane Journal ™

Above: Alexandria Smith, [Ruminations on] the enjoyment incredible, 2022
combined media on three-dimensional wooden assemblage. 50 7/8 x 62 15/16 x 1 3/4 inches 129.3 x 159.8 x 4.5 cm  © Alexandria Smith Picture: Prudence Cuming Associates LtdCourtesy the Artist and Gagosian

Do you keep in mind your goals? What worlds do you traverse? What messages do you obtain? In Fake Gravitas and Dream Aborted Givens, the primary solo exhibition by Alexandria Smith, organized by Antwaun Sargent for Gagosian New York (April 28-June 4, 2022), Smith references Black feminist figuration, conventional non secular cosmogonies, and Black womanist literary imaginations to render a vibrant collection of refreshingly surreal, mixed-media works. A self-described “closeted author,” Smith’s prolific sensibility to faucet into the visions that sometimes are revealed solely in REM sleep levels, permits us to dream whereas awake and assessment pictures that glean previous, current and future prospects for Black femme-identifying lives. 

“I really feel like writers have at all times understood my thoughts, my thought course of, my creativeness, and it’s been uncommon for me to search out artists, visible artists that do the identical,” Smith shared with this author. “I believe they’re a handful now, however I imply, rising up, there have been only a few that I used to be uncovered to, so I at all times turned to books and my dad and mom kind of fostered that.” 

Trying upon the worlds that she renders is like touring to a different dimension. Oceans arc above a trinity of one-eyed light-bearers. The land is each water and flesh: arms, rounded breasts and erect nipples of headless blue-black girls stand steadfast, unmoved, and highly effective of their ascendant types. The extra you discover the exhibition, the higher you’ll be able to learn the sequence as an epic, nonlinear mythopoetic story. Transformative totems, revelatory icons and lyrical titles information us by means of an enlightening journey into the unconscious ruminations of an excellent thoughts. 

The photographs that Smith conjures are knowledgeable by an unimaginable heritage of Black girls students and queer visionaries who grounded their work in non secular reverence and aligned their pedagogy with legacies of intuitive praxis. 

“I really feel like solely one other Black lady particularly may get this, or a POC individual can get this concept of spirituality,” Smith continued. “So [I] take heed to the fabric, [I] take heed to the work, and the one manner I can do that’s if I take away the analytical or logical. Once I’m making and permit that half to return in later, I simply function a conduit, and after I begin to suppose an excessive amount of about it, after I begin to be influenced in a manner, it kind of interferes. [There] is a number of daydreaming that I enable to occur, like waking day dreaming.”

Materiality turns into an integral part in the best way viewers learn and expertise the work. Every mixed-media assemblage on three-dimensional wooden or paper within the Fake Gravitas and Dream Aborted Givens sequence exquisitely conceives dimension in expansive methods: as a literal three-dimensional combined media development; as literary references to interdimensional journey as iterated by Black womanist speculative fiction; and as a historic evaluation of subjugating figurative tropes that diminished the multidimensionality of African diaspora girls by depicting them as subhuman, servile topics in visible artwork. 

Partaking dimension as a pedagogical and praxis-informed conceptual instrument serves as a bridge by which viewers can orient their expectations of dreamtime, spacetime and mythology, respectively, by means of an deliberately affirmative Black lens. In these meta-conscious states, our perceptions of time, depth and house shift in order that we are able to expertise the expansiveness and physics-defying parameters of the dreamworlds we inhabit. Smith makes use of combined media to enunciate the improved cognition that we expertise after we dream. 

“It took a very long time to get right here … I’ve been a instructor for over a decade and [even] earlier than grad college, and I [was collaging],” she mentioned. “And all I had was the photocopy machine, so I began printing out pictures of my work that I had been making after which felt compelled to collage them. I used to be sourcing and remixing my very own work and [to] create these collages, and people have been kind of enjoyable and playful and intuitive and [a] comparable power to drawing, which is at all times the spine of my observe. That advanced into making large-scale collages, which I referred to as collage installations, that have been kind of depending on the wall. They weren’t contained inside a rectangle sq. or on a floor; they have been simply free.”

Smith’s steady experimentation with materials allowed her to search out solace within the observe and means of assemblage. By remixing previous work and collaging them into new constructions mounted onto wooden, Smith was given a brand new expressive freedom; she may apply her painterly figurative method to invigorate three-dimensional sculptural types. Using CNC (Laptop Numeric Managed machine) and Jigsaw slicing strategies as main instruments, Smith created assemblage works that embody pure types and intensify the spherical curvature of Black girls’s silhouettes. Although she doesn’t think about herself to be a standard sculptor, the strategies that she engages domesticate an imaginative technique to work with combined media in additional culturally astute and aesthetically dynamic methods. 

“I’m not a sculptor, I don’t have the abilities of a sculptor. I can dabble in it and have issues fabricated, however I’m additionally very focused on having some kind of involvement at each stage, or on the bulk of the making course of … What I felt I used to be feeling compelled to do all alongside, was make these actually huge collages, and I’ve at all times gravitated in the direction of wooden as a result of canvas didn’t really feel prefer it belonged to me, it didn’t really feel prefer it belonged to us, and I say ‘us’ as in Black folks.”

To blanketly name the work figurative or broadly categorize it as surrealist would restrict assessments of a sequence that embodies myriad actions and encapsulates intergenerational processes which have been activated and elevated by Black artists. The icons that recur in Smith’s assemblages invoke distinct archetypes attributed to feminine nudes. The custom of figuration is referenced but in addition abstracted; although the beings have the anatomical options of cis-women, they’re additionally imbued with deliberately genderless, androgenous or featureless parts. Because of this, the figures develop into extra icon than physique—symbol-laden, hieroglyphic, meta-omnipresent oracles.  

Above: Alexandria Smith, Stars in my pocket, 2022
combined media on three-dimensional wooden assemblage. 62 15/16 x 50 7/8 x 1 3/4 inches 159.9 x 129.2 x 4.5 cm. ©Alexandria Smith. Courtesy Gagosian


In Stars in My Pocket (2022), a three-dimensional combined media assemblage, a personified wave stretches its lengthy arm-neck above an enormous cerulean sea. The hand-head of the Wave-being holds a beaming star. The golden rays of the star shine throughout the dense waters and illuminate a large blue-black sky. The ocean that the Wave-being beams throughout is laden with shadowy silhouettes—stones or heads that line the ocean flooring. There’s a historical past in these waters. The Wave-being shines a lightweight on these misplaced to the waters, brings their abstracted types into focus. A matte black field that may symbolize a closed door or window or a yet-to-be-opened portal to the following realm hovers within the distance. 

Smith exaggerates the physicality of topics and house to iterate narratives that transcend and transmute colonial views about interdimensional spacetime, seen and unseen worlds. The magical realist, psychic and psychological realms that Smith illustrates question our relationship to house and time and fortify our capability to decipher the meta-messages that reside within the boundlessness of our goals.

Above: Alexandria Smith, a colored tomorrowland, 2021
Combined media on paper in artist body. 22 1/2 x 19 1/2 x 1 3/4 inches 57.3 x 49.6 x 4.5 cm ©Alexandria Smith. Picture: Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd. Courtesy the artist and Gagosian

In a colored tomorrowland (2021), a combined media work on paper, a being sits, head tilted to the sky and legs crossed on a mattress of wealthy soil on the forefront of the body. The being is break up triply; a shadow of a shadow cascades into silhouettes that fade from lavender to deep purple. 

There’s secure house right here. One imagines that the being is perhaps dreaming a few coloured tomorrowland, a respite for queer-feminist-womanist our bodies to ponder the chances of a liberated actuality. 5 arched doorways prolong alongside the again wall. A row of beaded ropes dangle from the ceiling and settle within the middle between the seated being and the doorways. Any pathway to true freedom will probably be imagined earlier than it may be manifested. The being rests comfortably on this realizing, and by extension, we develop into hopeful in our particular person and collective capacity to comprehend liberation goals. 


“, my works and my figures are Black girls or Black folks, and it’s simply the only of issues, however you recognize instantly that the silhouette will not be of a white individual … Paring it right down to these easy types additionally references structure, [and] it references construction.

A duality, dualism [is] occurring. To me, the silhouette and the shadow do one thing comparable. It’s this concept of duplication, representing one factor, however really taking by itself type as a result of the syllabus paradigm, a shadow is what we do, it’s reflecting on what we do, but it surely’s doing that in reverse. Duplication [and] repetition are at play for positive. It’s part of my language.” 

Smith has a decolonized creativeness and iterates that manner of seeing by means of radically utopic visualizations. The recurring totemic and transformative metaphors she renders act as main protagonists and vital symbols in her combined media works. Every assemblage exemplifies Dr. Christina Sharpe’s theoretical evaluation of residence time. Regardless of the wake, the persistence of unabashed and luminary Black presence throughout the diaspora shines. By recalling and validating Black existence past a trauma-laden lens, Smith recalibrates our collective creativeness. 


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