Kayne Griffin Corcoran is pleased to present The Diet, Michael Bell-Smith’s first solo exhibition with the gallery and in Los Angeles.
The Diet uses the ideals of strict, regimented eating habits as its catalyst. At its core, a diet is what one consumes to achieve a desired effect: input becoming output. It is often driven by trends and constantly changing. Working across video, vinyl paintings and custom software, Bell-Smith has produced three different series under the umbrella of these intersecting ideas.
In De-Employed_2016, Bell-Smith revisits his 2012 work De-Employed. The original video was created from a selection of templates used by creative professionals to create slideshows or promotional videos. Isolating and recombining elements from these templates, Bell-Smith created a structure of his own, an 18 second loop of movement and transition. Bell-Smith repeated this template for two and half minutes, populating it with a myriad of content culled from his collection of clip art, stock footage, found media, and digital constructions. The result was a kinetic flow of images, accompanied by a poetic stream of subtitles and synced sound effects. The video breaks apart everyday user interfaces and relocates the special effects to become the content, not just the visual form. This reversal questions the image’s ability to convey meaning—or whether that is the point in the first place—as the media becomes secondary to a larger flow.
For The Diet, Bell-Smith has expanded upon this project with a new video, De-Employed_2016, which utilizes the same template structure but with new, “updated” media. Bell-Smith’s act of re-versioning the original amplifies the work’s investigation into how structure shapes meaning. He looks at the aging qualities and lack of fixity in digital forms, while reflecting on the short life-span of aesthetics and visual meaning in the contemporary moment. Both De-Employed and De-Employed_2016 are presented in the gallery as a back-to-back seamless looping mix.
New vinyl paintings use the decorative motif of the metal stud, an object generally associated with punk rock and heavy metal culture, but which has more recently been adopted by mainstream fashion to reference an attitude of rebellion. Bell-Smith reduces the stud to a graphic icon, repeating the form in gridded arrangements simultaneously mannered and messy. Resembling a series of anonymous logos, the compositions veer towards abstraction, while remaining rooted in the language of graphic design and page layout. Bell-Smith's interest in forms of mass cultural visuals, extends to the material and process of the work's construction. Vinyl cut-outs are indicative of sign-making, trade show graphics, museum wall text, and various other branding or commercial platforms.
Another pair of vinyl paintings utilizes figurative sketches sourced from sketchbook images posted online. Bell-Smith views this act - appropriation of the handmade through layers of technology - as a stand-in for the dialogue between person and computer at play in the process used to create these paintings. Each painting starts as a digital image and is translated to a vinyl cutter piece by piece. These pieces are then applied by hand to aluminum composite panel, meticulously building up the image layer by layer into the final composition. The four works in the Flames Clock series represent the fourth iteration of Bell-Smith’s larger clocks series started in 2012. In each piece, the artist combines a seamless video loop with a custom piece of software that tells the time via a floating clock. In the works, the mesmerizing seduction of a video loop is paired with the utility and potential anxiety of the present, real world time. Critic Brian Droitcour describes the series, “Like the round clock face, the spliced reel of the film loop symbolizes a temporality that its physical shape can’t contain.” For the Flames Clock works, Bell-Smith takes the idea of staring at fire, an archetypical meditation on the wonders of nature, and subjects it to the manipulations of digital media.
Michael Bell-Smith (born 1978 in East Corinth, Maine) lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Bell-Smith received a BA in Art Semiotics from Brown University in 2001 and an MFA from Bard College in 2012. His work has been screened and exhibited internationally, including MoMAPS1, New York; The New Museum, New York; Foxy Production, New York; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, Australia; Galeri F15, Moss, Norway; Threshold Artspace, Perth, Scotland; The Museum of Fine Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland; Vilma Gold, London; BankART, Yokohama, Japan; Glassbox, Paris; PROJEKT 0047, Berlin; and Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, UK.
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