Beginning December 16, 2023, visitors to The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art will have the extraordinary opportunity to experience the work of contemporary artist Shinique Smith (b. 1971) in conversation with the museum’s collection of European art. Shinique Smith: Parade will be on view in the Museum of Art for over a year, through January 5, 2025.
Unfolding across six galleries of the Museum of Art, the exhibition creates a series of unique stories that together form an abstract narrative of the “parade” as a metaphor for life.
“We are so thrilled that Shinique Smith has chosen to present her work to Sarasota audiences within our European galleries, where it will provoke conversation and inspire new ways of seeing and understanding both historic and contemporary art,” exhibition curator Sarah Cartwright, Chief Curator and Ulla R. Searing Curator of Collections at The Ringling, said. Cartwright. “Shinique chose the works on view in response to The Ringling’s magnificent gallery spaces. The synergy between her work and our collections is palpable, and the museum is full of unexpected moments of beauty and emotion.”
Well known for her monumental sculptures created from an array of materials, including luxurious textiles, personal clothing, dyed fabrics, ribbon, and wood, and for her abstract paintings of calligraphy and collage, Smith’s work in this exhibition speaks to various facets of the European artistic tradition, such as classical drapery and religious iconography, while foregrounding notions of Black femininity and the history of the circus.
“My hope for this show is to create a bridge between differing depictions of people and the art histories that inform my hand while celebrating the beauty found in our belongings and honoring the resilience and magnanimity of Black women,” Smith said.
Moving through the Museum of Art galleries, which display European art from the fifteenth century through the late nineteenth, visitors will find several examples of Smith’s acclaimed large-scale fabric sculptures in conversation with European art, for example with Italian Baroque paintings in Gallery 8 and with Gilded Age interiors from the Astor Mansion in New York City in Galleries 19 and 20.
Smith’s works in the exhibition emphasize femininity, as seen through the eyes of a woman artist.
In works such as Inflamed by Golden Hues of Love and Mitumba Deity II, Smith explores her reverence for the curves of Black women, conveyed through shapely forms bejeweled and draped in gold. Notions of divinity, light, death, renewal, and rebirth pervade sculptural works like Grace Stands Beside and Stargazer, the latter inspired by the imagined path of an enslaved woman following the stars and counting the days to her freedom.
The exhibition moves from the mythic and monumental to the personal and familial with ease. Inspired by her admiration for the beauty that her grandmother and mother created in times of “making do” and building magic from everything they had on hand, the installation in Gallery 6 will display a collection of photographs of the women in Smith’s family dressed to the nines, along with some of her own personal treasures, to form a venerated visual poem.
About Shinique Smith
Born in Baltimore, MD, and currently residing in Los Angeles, Smith holds BFA and MFA degrees from the Maryland Institute College of Art and an MA in Education from Tufts University. She has received awards and prizes from Joan Mitchell, the Tiffany Foundation, Anonymous Was a Woman, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters among others.
Her work has gained attention through her participation in celebrated biennials and group exhibitions and has been exhibited and collected by institutions such as the Baltimore Museum of Art, Brooklyn Museum of Art, California African American Museum, Denver Art Museum, Deutsche Guggenheim, Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Minneapolis Institute of Art, MOMA PS1, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.