artists & participants
This fall, the Blanton Museum of Art will be home to Mike's World, the first major retrospective of internationally renowned performance/video/installation artist Michael Smith and his New York-based collaborator, director/artist Joshua White. This extraordinary exhibition features some 30 years of videos, installation environments, and other performance-related materials detailing the adventures of "Mike," a sweet but hapless Everyman character created by Smith, and his hilariously awkward and ineffectual search for a piece of the American Dream. Following its debut in Austin, Mike's World will travel to the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia (April 24-August 3, 2008).
"The Blanton is pleased to organize and present this first survey exhibition of Michael Smith's impressive body of work," said Blanton Director Jessie Otto Hite. "Not only does this show allow us to showcase the work of one of the university's finest artists, it also affirms one of the new Blanton's strengths as a major presenter of contemporary art. Smith's work speaks to issues that touch all our lives-depersonalization, isolation, failure, fear of failure, and the rapid pace of change. Michael Smith, Joshua White, and the other collaborators of Mike's World illuminate timely challenges with poignancy and humor."
About the Exhibition
Mike's World will take a tightly focused view of a single Michael Smith performance persona as it has developed over the course of many years and through innumerable presentation formats. The character "Mike" functions metaphorically as a kind of ever-hopeful Candide, adrift in a world of rapid technological advancement that he seems incapable of fully comprehending. Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, curator of American and contemporary art and organizer of the exhibition, explained, "Direct and accessible, Smith's exquisite use of humor as a strategy for empathy and identification is rooted in the artist/audience relationships of performance. Yet the work's amplification and variation owes much to its visual, conceptualist sources. Underscoring the hybrid nature of Smith's accomplishment, the works selected for the exhibition also will highlight the unusual collaborative creative process in which Smith has engaged over the years, including his most recent series of videos and installation collaborations with artist-director Joshua White."
The exhibition has been designed by Michael Smith and Joshua White as a self-contained theatrical set. Two new commissions by the Blanton will serve as the introduction to the exhibition: a five-minute video by Smith and White reprising the story of "Mike," and a three-dimensional timeline that introduces "Mike's world" to museum audiences and contextualizes it within recent "real world" historical and cultural events. Resembling the orientation center of a presidential library, the space will provide a sharp break from the rest of the museum and a challenging, quasi-theatrical experience for museum visitors.
Subsequent sections of the installation will be sequenced along a thematic and chronological route. Short video performances will be shown on monitors and flat screens within installation environments, while longer videos will be projected in a screening room. The videos surveyed include Down in the Rec Room, 1979/81; Secret Horror, 1980; It Starts at Home, 1982; Go For It, Mike, 1984; Mike Builds a Shelter, 1985; The World of Photography (a collaboration with William Wegman), 1986; Mike, 1987; Outstanding Young Men of America, 1996; Interstitial, 1999; Famous Quotes of Art History, 2001-03; and Portal Excursion, 2007.
The exhibition includes a number of fragments from early installations, and three key recent projects will be reconstructed in their entirety. MUSCO: 1969-97, 1997, the office, storage area and showroom of a theatrical lighting company forced into bankruptcy by "its astounding failure" to keep up with post-disco-ball times. The QuinQuag Arts and Wellness Centre, 2001, documentation of an invented art retirement colony being devoured by corporate patronage. Take Off Your Pants!, 2005, a revolving six-sided kiosk that offers carnivalesque elaborations of a Mike-designed board game. The show will also feature numerous drawings, notebooks, storyboards, and performance ephemera.
About the Artists
Michael Smith is on the faculty of The University of Texas at Austin, and his 30-year artistic career includes live performance, video works, commercial and cable television skits, puppet shows, exhibition installations, comic publications, and drawings. Smith has an impressive exhibition and performance history that began in the late 1970s, with venues as varied as Franklin Furnace, The Kitchen, Randolph St. Gallery, DTW, Cinemax, the Whitney, the Corcoran, the New Museum, the Pompidou Center, and, in recent years, sites as far-flung as São Paolo, Copenhagen, Milan, London, and Cambridge.
Joshua White is a director and producer based in New York City. He made his mark as the creator and director of the legendary Joshua Light Show at Bill Graham's Fillmore East in the late 1960s. White went on to design psychedelic light shows for Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, among others. Later, he directed episodes of television programs such as Seinfeld, The Max Headroom Show, and Inside the Actors' Studio. White's lighting designs are currently included in the exhibition Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Mike's World: Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators) is organized by the Blanton Museum of Art. Funding for the exhibition is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Melissa Jones, and Marlene Nathan Meyerson and by a grant from Houston Endowment Inc. in honor of Melissa Jones for the presentation of contemporary art at the Blanton. This project also is supported by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.
Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators)