Cauleen Smith is an artist who makes films, installations, and objects. She actively invites engagement, and with much of the work she employs a purposeful undermining of image and language to elicit contemplation. Smith’s films create worlds that expand on the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental filmmaking. Drawing from structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction, she assembles poetic compositions that gently reveal nuanced narratives, both familiar, and oftentimes, purposefully opaque. Her text-based tapestries follow a historic tradition of heraldry. These banners, which can be understood as a social device symbolizing community organizing, declare personalized idioms sewn in script that simulates her own handwriting, lifted directly from her sketchbook. Through her installations, Smith constructs archetypes of the universe and she assembles miniature worlds using myriad items, which often include mundane object and figurines alongside symbols of colonialism, such as porcelain objects and potted plants, paired with disco balls, rocks and minerals, resulting in something otherworldly and also museological. For Smith, consideration of the audience is an important element of her process, and she uses a full range of media and references to express her belief in utopian potentiality.
Cauleen Smith (b. Riverside, California, 1967) lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. She received her BFA from San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA, and her MFA from University of California, Los Angeles, CA. Smith is the recipient of several grants and awards, including the 2022 Heinz Award; Guggenheim Fellowship; Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize; Ellsworth Kelly Award; The Herb Alpert Award in the Arts; and a Rauschenberg Residency. Smith’s works have been featured in solo exhibitions at institutions such as Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia, PA; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, IL; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, North Adams, MA; Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston, TX; and Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA, among others. Her work is included in numerous public collections, such as the Art Institute of Chicago; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Studio Museum Harlem; Smithsonian Museum of American Art; and the Whitney Museum of American Art.