Kate Smith, Shadow Box, 1990. Invitation card.
Kate Smith, Shadow Box, 1990. Invitation card.
Kate Smith, Shadow Box, 1990. Invitation card.

Kate Smith, Shadow Box, 1990. Invitation card.


Kate Smith

Shadow Box

25 April – 18 May 1990

Martello Street

I recently visited a gallery showing Donald Judd furniture, on which were carefully placed a variety of ornaments including a china bust of a woman with cherry decorated blouse and heart shaped necklace. Gallery directors organise their environment  according to personal taste, all the while sending messages to visitors and prospective buyers. The work is often an extension of that taste, sometimes quite at odds, it would seem. Was this an extreme example of the design of a gallery space altering the reading of the work, or simply its anticipation of the work’s role in the chain store furniture department?

The museum offers a different kind of setting, another set of intentions, but one in which the design of the place and its internal fittings contribute no less to the meaning of the work.

The kind of fitting I have placed at Matt’s Gallery would be more likely to be found in the institutionalised space. The switch of context serves to estrange the design of the furniture. It has particularly Modern design to it and is especially at home with work such as Rothko's, though it is used almost as a job lot throughout such institutions.

The  benches, plinth-like steel structures pushed together, frame a taut black leather field ready to envelop the viewer, tempting her/him into the spotlight trained on that field of six units. Each unit is slightly larger than that usual kind of prop. Steel frame, not chrome, leather too soft to be functional, and more seductive because of that, slight alterations, but enough to register  -  part of  the piece or functional?

Six more leather covers are flipped up unto the wall, revealing the softer reverse side of the material, empty shells that sag together forming a picture to reflect on, a reflection of the six units of the seating. Locked together in one movement. The frame moves from wall to floor, and frames the viewer tempted to sit, the enclosed white cube of the gallery space extends that frame further.

- Kate Smith