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Michael E. Smith
Michael Benevento Gallery, Los Angeles, California
Recommendation by Michael Shaw


Michael E. Smith, "Fish Oil," 2017, fish, table, 30 1/2 x 48". Courtesy the artist and Michael Benevento. Photo: Jeff McLane

Continuing through March 11, 2017

Michael E. Smith (not to be confused with Michael Smith, the seminal video / performance / installation artist) does his best to interact with the sectional, rabbit-warren procession of galleries here. His soft touch of an installation flirts heavily with post-Duchampian, grad school mischievousness. Not necessarily 'grad school' in a derogatory sense, but with an immense amount of freedom. The first piece that confronts you, in a dead-end corridor straight off the entrance, features a skeletal bicycle core, its main stem resting on a diaper. It begins the inquiry:  art or random discard, intentional or accidental? A putty wall sculpture in the shape/image of a hashtag hangs in an unlit room. A pair of taxidermied raccoon forearms, curled as if, perhaps, pointing toward each other, make for a subtle presence among bookshelves in the gallery's office.

A classic outdoor patio table, the kind with curving metal legs and a Plexiglas tabletop, is featured twice in the proceedings — flipped upside down, each supported a couple of inches off the ground by taxidermied fish. One of them amounts to the clear star of the show: illuminated by an icy cool blue light, it hovers like an extravagantly modest spaceship, blocking off one of the hallways that the gallery has a history of implementing to dramatic effect. Not only will you not see the fish propping the table up unless you bend very low to look for it, there are several other pieces-cum-installations that you will miss unless you grab the checklist and make it your mission to check them off. In that sense, the installation is as much scavenger hunt as it is an art show. It’s rare that a checklist is such a resource, and every once in a while a highly ambiguous concoction such as this is welcome.


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