Ming Smith

Evidence

Nicola Vassell
138 Tenth Avenue
New York
Chelsea
May 20th 2021 — Jun 26th 2021

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The word “evidence” has taken on juristic connotations, but it originally meant “obvious to the eye.” Nicola Vassell Gallery, whose inaugural exhibition bears that title, seeks to broaden the future of art by expanding its history. Ming Smith, the first woman to join Kamoinge, the famed Black photography collective, is the perfect subject to take up that mantle. “Evidence,” which brings together work from across Smith’s half-century career, showcases her incredible range, not only of subject—landscapes, portraits, protests—but also in craft.

The photographs on view range from painted prints of flamingos in Germany to shots of the cornfields of Ohio; from dreamlike compositions—the central figure of Circular Breathing (1980) is lighted by the penumbra of his lit cigarette—to a crisp and intense portrait of the French artist Brassaï. Smith, however, returns to a favored set of the themes, subjects, and techniques. Mirroring and parallels pervade: a pair of facing-off nuns in Nuns on the Square (August Wilson) (1991); a pair of older Black women, one of whom wields a fan printed with the image of a pair of young girls as well as a pair of golden retrievers in Amen Corner Sisters (Harlem, New York) (1976) [pictured]. And she relishes not only in the illuminating nature of photography but also the camera’s obscuring properties. A limb all but fades into another in the intimate and sensual Male Nude (New York) (1977), and Smith repeatedly returns to dark interiors intersected by light-flooded windows, as if captured the instant before one’s eyes adjust.

Ming Smith, Amen Corner Sisters (Harlem, New York), 1976. Archival pigment print, 36 x 24.25 inches.

  • Through
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  • Through
    May 29th

    Inspired by fractals, Renee Cox’s deity-like collages of Black figures constitute an Afrofuturist creation myth.

  • Through
    Jun 6th

    An economical survey of Jonas Mekas, “The Camera Was Always Running” serves as a touching introduction to the Lithuanian filmmaker and champion of avant-garde cinema.

  • Through
    May 22nd

    Exhibited with melodic sight-lines, Mary Manning’s “Ambient Music” hums with the background noise of the subconscious.

  • Through
    May 28th

    The words masterful and mastery assert themselves the instant one encounters the works in “My Body,” both for Nancy Grossman’s command of a wide range of skills and her active state of dominance, identity and selfhood.

  • Through
    May 23rd

    Full of whimsy and delight, Fernanda Laguna’s work in “The Path of the Heart” cuts an incisive critique of sociopolitical issues in Latin America.

  • Through
    May 28th

    The work in Valentina Vaccarella’s “Bless this Life” rests on a simple irony: monogrammed, embroidered French bridal linens pulled taut across stretcher bars and besmirched by rough images of modern madams.

  • Through
    Jun 6th

    Daniel Lie’s “Unnamed Entities” at the New Museum challenges the antiseptic aim of curation and conservation by imagining a different kind of organic art that needs to be nurtured rather than preserved.

  • Through
    Jan 2nd 2023

    The sonic encounters provoked by Camille Norment’s elaborate acoustic artworks serve as agents for social consciousness.

  • Ongoing

    Day’s End, an elegiac memorial to and stubborn ghost of eras bygone, will also serve as silent witness to the inevitable changes to come.

  • Ongoing

    Dia’s recent acquisition of works by Charles Gaines forms the basis of this survey, which includes the artist’s first forays into mathematics-based grid drawings and other early experiments in medium and form.