March 23, 2019 - April 20, 2019
Bruno Smith’s works are byproducts of twenty-first century excess. They are crafted from the artist’s observations of a culture of overaccumulation and uninvestigated consumption. His collections have previously utilized recycled garments stretched over canvases and furniture. The fragmentation of these garments emboldens one’s associations with them by removing them from the body: an advertisement for a vacation destination or the print of a fabric is a reminder of a moment in the viewer’s own life.
His most recent collection, Floats, carries on Bruno’s tradition of using clothing as material, while expanding to include tools previously unexplored. As with earlier collections, the personal radiates toward the public, disclosing the ways in which one’s lived experience and private feeling can be shared through the observation of art.
The artist considers his Mexican-American heritage during a time when the border between the two countries becomes an increasingly dire site of violence and government surveillance. Forms of ancient goddesses are branded with labels of Mexican consumer products and preserved in resin. These symbols coexist impossibly, spanning thousands of years, reminding of our inability to escape painful historical narratives.
One of the exhibitition’s highlights, Coatlicue, whose name is derived from the Aztec serpent goddess, is composed of stuffed and sewn Realtree-print shirts. They are stacked atop one another with appendages extended. Despite what associations might be drawn from the hunting garments, the form of the work conjures stone sculptures interpreted by colonizers after the Spanish Conquest. When these disparate times and places come into contact, they strike at once pain, wistfulness, and wonder. These emotions are discordant. But they are, perhaps more importantly, inextricable. A yearning to understand one’s feelings becomes, rather, a dawning of recalibration.
At the same time, Bruno’s recent works display multifarious surface and texture, giving the eye a spectrum of means to interpret color. The yellow sheen of a chair reverberates in the stretch of a bungee cord and in the absorbing matte finish of a hand-painted detail on a frame. Thus even the colors seem to float—as the show’s title suggests—between operating as a unifying hue and a variation on a theme.