For over thirty-five years, Smith has generated an extensive body of solo and collaborative work in a variety of media, including performance, video, installation, photography, print editions, and artists' books. In a new project centered on an age-old theme, Smith brings together his iconic performance personae—Mike (aka Blandman, the naive yet hopeful Everyman) and Baby Ikki (the ambiguously aged toddler with conspicuous facial hair)—on a common quest for the elusive, rejuvenating elixir. Their journey is chronicled as a ballet dance odyssey, continuing Mike's lifelong project of making the ordinary extraordinary and elevating daily drudgeries into chivalric deeds.
Choreographed by Stephen Mills (Artistic Director, Ballet Austin) to music by Mayo Thompson, and performed by Ballet Austin Apprentices, Excuse me!?!...I'm looking for the "Fountain of Youth" offers a meditation on the passage of time by way of a comedic study in contrasts, as Mike and the young dancers search at their own paces, on separate planes, for the storied eternal Fountain. Also on view is a selection of drawings that Smith made while working on and daydreaming about the ballet. Quixotic and associative—a document, perhaps, of lost time—they reveal his discursive process as a juggling of text, imagery, miscellaneous themes, and notes that collide and dovetail before being shaped into a narrative treatment.
Michael Smith lives and works in Austin, Texas and Brooklyn, New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Greene Naftali Gallery (New York), Nuit Blanche (Toronto), Hales Gallery (London), Dan Gunn Gallery (Berlin), Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art (Gateshead, United Kingdom), Ellen de Bruijn Projects (Amsterdam), SculptureCenter (Long Island City, New York), and Galleria Emi Fontana (Milan). Smith’s mid-career survey, Mike’s World: Michael Smith & Joshua White (and other collaborators) was exhibited at the Blanton Museum of Art (Austin) and the Institute of Contemporary Art (Philadelphia). His work has been presented in numerous group shows, including Toys Redux: On Play and Critique, Migros Museum (Zurich); The Radiants, Bortolami Gallery (New York); Performing Franklin Furnace, Participant Inc. (New York); Performing John Cage, Museum of Modern Art (New York); Rituals of Rented Island, Whitney Museum of American Art (New York); The Pictures Generation, 1974–1984, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York); and 2008 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art (New York). Smith’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art (New York), Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Paley Center for Media (New York), Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), Centre Pompidou (Paris), and the Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim (Brazil).