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Press Release

Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to announce Alexis Smith: The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, an exhibition of an installation by Alexis Smith with Amy Gerstler and a selection of recent collages by Smith. The exhibition will be on view from July 5 through August 27, 2016.

Familiar from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s late-eighteenth-century poem, its musical interpretation a century later by the composer Paul Dukas, or Walt Disney Studios’ ever-popular animated film Fantasia (1940), The Sorcerer’s Apprentice evokes cultural memories spanning time and mediums. Smith’s idiosyncratic collection of brooms—gathered in the dozens from flea markets and alleyway dumpsters—stand in as the main characters in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Lined up in a manner recalling a chorus line of showgirls, perhaps ready to multiply magically at a moment’s notice, the brooms are joined by a host of other found objects and wall drawings interspersed with texts penned by Gerstler. The texts move quickly beyond the titular reference to the eponymous fairytale and employ the figure of the broom to explore the twin poles of work and play, stereotypical gender roles, and the age-old myths and archetypes that still permeate contemporary society. Laid out variously as waving lines, structured poems, and circuitous dialogues, Gerstler’s evocative texts play off of Smith’s imagery and suggest myriad and at times violent connotations of the verb “to sweep.”

This layering of temporal and cultural references is a mainstay of Alexis Smith’s work, which for over four decades has dissected the motivations and anxieties that constitute everyday life in America. Using an enigmatic blend of surrealism, familiarity, and humor that might be considered uniquely Californian, Smith collects commonplace objects, images, and texts and complicates our understanding of them through revealing juxtapositions. Wordplay and puns abound, acting as gateways to subtler observations that incorporate nuanced appropriations from history, literature, film, and pop culture. Across Smith’s body of work, and likewise in The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, her astute pairings and modifications call out for interpretation but settle on no obvious meaning. This is Smith’s second exhibition with the gallery; a previous collaboration between Smith and Gerstler, Past Lives (1989), was on view at Honor Fraser Gallery in 2013. Initially exhibited in 2000, this is the first time since 2003 that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice will be on view. A selection of Smith’s recent collages will accompany the installation.

Alexis Smith was born in 1949 in Los Angeles, where she lives today. She received a BA from University of California, Irvine in 1970. One person exhibitions of Smith’s work have been mounted at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, La Jolla, CA (2015); University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, WY (2003); Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego, CA (2000); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (1997); J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, CA (1997); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY (1991); and Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (1991). Her work has been included in nearly 200 thematic exhibitions, including recently Drawing in L.A.: the 1960s and 70s, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA (2014); Under the Big Black Sun: California Art 1974-1981, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA (2011); and elles@centrepompidou, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France (2009). Smith has completed several major public commissions, including a mural for the Las Vegas Central Library; terrazzo floors at the Jerome Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; and a site specific installation for The Stuart Collection, University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, CA. Her work is included public collections such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

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