Critics’ Picks

Michael E. Smith, Untitled, 2016, shells, and sawdust. Installation view.

Portland

Michael E. Smith

lumber room
419 NW 9th Avenue
August 19 - October 8

Michael E. Smith’s installation of small-scale sculptures and one video work was arranged in situ during a weeklong stay in this refined domestic environment. The space is both a residence and the site of an eclectic array of artistic projects, many curated from the collection of founder Sarah Miller Meigs. During his time here, Smith brought a selection of his own sculptures and ready-made materials to the site—including clothing, crustacean exoskeletons, and a duffel bag. A critical part of the artist’s practice consists of painstakingly locating objects that interest and inspire him—often via conversation with people online—and then slowly weaving relationships between them in specific environments over time.

Works are situated throughout the venue like visual poems, beginning with Untitled, (all works cited 2016) his treatment of the stairwell leading up to the interior. He covered the skylight with yellow cloth, imbuing the stairs with a citrine glow reminiscent of old fluorescent streetlights. In the main room, a pair of thin, elongated forms rises from the floor. Comprised of dried corn and urethane, the arcing forms of another Untitled possess a curious dent that makes them appear as if they might spring into action. In the kitchen, in a third Untitled work, Smith removed the covers from the air vents, exposing their metal filter interiors to which he attached large shells covered in sawdust. Sometimes barely noticeable at first glance, these interventions permeate the environment with a sense of delight and discovery, and their unpretentious elegance makes them feel as if they’ve always been there.