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View of “Matt Sheridan Smith,” 2014.

Matt Sheridan Smith

HANNAH HOFFMAN

View of “Matt Sheridan Smith,” 2014.

Though it may be inadvisable, let’s begin with the press release. The text that Matt Sheridan Smith produced for his recent exhibition “Widow: Fig.3 Ep.1” didn’t merely gloss the show’s themes and forms, but rather played an active role in their production. He begins with the famous opening line of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, only here Gregor Samsa has been replaced by “the widow,” who is transformed not into a “giant insect” but a “Figure.” The show hinged to a large extent on that final, prismatic term—figure—a word whose meanings include shape and pattern, one’s physical appearance or the depiction of a person in literature or art, body, symbol, or emblem. Its adjectival form gives rise to seemingly contradictory meanings for language and art: Figurative art describes a recognizable, and thus on some level faithful, or even literal, depiction of the world—and is

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