Critics’ Picks

View of “Michael E. Smith,” 2017. From left: Untitled, 2017; Untitled, 2017.


Michael E. Smith

Brunnenstrasse 9
September 16 - November 5

Michael E. Smith’s third solo exhibition at this gallery features a stuffed Macaw parrot hanging upside down (Untitled, 2017) in a dimly lit space with a green laser pointer mercilessly beaming onto the creature’s left eye every second. The artist’s unsettling sculptures are often made of unlikely alliances between fragility and weight, organic and synthetic, or the ordinary and the remarkable. They lure the eye and fill the space around them with their repulsive energy, creating environments where material, language, and image converse with and contradict one another.

Another work (also Untitled, 2017) features a dehumidifier that shows signs of wear. This machine, usually used for domestic comfort or to support the appropriate conditions for sustaining an artwork’s lifespan in an exhibition space, is here brought to balance on the paralyzed corpse of an Emperor angelfish that sports a gawking eye. Like a parasite, the machine appears to be sucking the lifeblood out of its nearly squashed host. In Smith’s show, sublime moments in the omnipresence of decay are debauched by a profane play that at times results in a quiet, disillusioned humor. Though physically absent, what lies at the center of all these objects is eventually the human body: its vulnerability, willfully repressed, and need for physical and psychological shelter in a society that is, at its core, molding.