NO EVERYTHING by Rowan Smith
7 June - 26 July 2014
WHATIFTHEWORLD is pleased to present NO EVERYTHING an exhibition of new work by Rowan Smith.
With this latest body of work, Smith employs complex mixed media sculpture and found objects in order to examine the tension between South Africa’s past and present in relation to shifting class identities, globalized economy, and the experience of the everyday. Opening within a month of South Africa’s national elections, the exhibition examines the complexities and contradictions of contemporary South Africa two decades after seemingly transitioning non-violently into post-apartheid. This is a condition defined early-on by an alternating sense of rapprochement and amnesia embedded in ideological nationalist constructs.
Through acts of appropriation, defacement, re-presentation, destruction and reparation, Smith examines and reveals the socio-political structures embedded in seemingly quotidian signifiers of contemporary South African existence. In this way, icons such as the logo for the Spur restaurant franchise, discarded potato chip packets, springbok horns, broken glass, chicken bones, rubble, driftwood, and the apparent omnipresence of Cecil John Rhodes become fragmented as remnants. It is through these remnants that Smith’s sculptures critique the deployment of capitalism associated with the development of South Africa and its reflection in class stratification and the effacement of Africa’s colonial history. The work reflects a state of transition between construction and demolition, where the subtractive labor of destruction gives rise to the cumulative labor of construction. This is an entropic cycle, caught in an ahistorical intermediate phase where everyday South African semiosis becomes forgotten amongst the rubble.
Galvanized by the state of contemporary capital, South African post-apartheid identities have been collapsed into a system of consumption that has provided many with opportunity while concurrently increasing social divides and the acceleration of the continuous present within the everyday. Through signifiers of garbage, (de)construction, and history, Smith expands the discourse surrounding the postcolonial subject in South Africa today, asking us to reconsider the banal things we take for granted in order to highlight their underlying structures. By doing so, Smith points towards an inherent contradiction embedded within the concept of progress in the postcolonial state.
Born in 1983 in Cape Town, South Africa. Rowan Smith completed his BA in Fine Art at the Michaelis School of Fine Art in 2007, with a body of work for which he was awarded the Michealis Prize for top graduate. In 2012, Smith completed his MFA degree at the California Institute of the Arts. Upon graduating, he was awarded the prestigious Joan Mitchell MFA Grant. In the same year Smith also exhibited a solo presentation at VOLTA artfair in New York . He has appeared in a number of group exhibitions internationally, including Objects of Revolution at Dominique Fiat Gallery in Paris, Ampersand at the Daimler Contemporary in Berlin, Circulate, Exchange at the University of California Los Angeles and recently Green Flower Street at the Istanbul Off Biennial. The artist’s work is included in the Hollard Collection, Johannesburg as well as in numerous private collections. NO EVERYTHING is his third solo exhibition with WHATIFTHEWORLD/GALLERY