Shawn Smith – Blue Tiger Shark
Dimensions: 63 x 27 x 18.5″ / 63 x 27 x 18.5″ sculpture
Medium: plywood, ink, acrylic paint
Shawn Smith’s work has been featured in 40 under 40, at the Smithsonian, as well as a two person exhibition with Rusty Scruby, at The Grace Museum. Wired Magazine featured an article on Shawn’s work, and he is the current recipient of a massive public art project in New York.
Shawn Smith’s plywood, ink, and acrylic paint work, Blue Tiger Shark, employs Smith’s characteristic pixilation, where Smith locates an image of an endangered species and reimagines it into what he describes as a ‘re-thing’. By removing the Tiger Shark from its oceanic habitat, Smith further introduces a need for conservation by calling attention to the shark’s dual sense of detachment—the animal has both been pulled from the sea and objectified through human technological constructs. The piece thus demands viewer involvement, as Smith insinuates that it is only the dynamic and mobile audience that has the ability to return the species to a secure environment.
Shawn Smith’s work focuses on themes of labor, technology, and science, where each of his sculptural pieces depicts a species facing extinction through human influence. Smith believes that the increasing quantities of technology in our day-to-day lives has begun to set the standard for our inter-species relations, through which we often view animals in the light of a screen rather than in a natural environment. By pixelating his works, Smith both demands acknowledgement for the animals decreasing numbers and for viewers to question their relationship with technology. Smith’s works cannot be viewed accurately through images, but rather, must be seen in person to understand the craftsmanship required to construct them and their full range of depth and color. This interacts with his conceptualizations of ‘detachment’, where attachment to his work is contingent upon reality rather than technological encounters. Smith also draws on the idea of process within his oeuvre by playing with construction and deconstruction; each of his sculptural works are reduced to mere pixels, yet are made from individually hand-cut and dyed blocks. Consistent with his participation in Turner Carroll’s Science as Art exhibition, Smith casts himself in the role of ‘artist as alchemist’, drawing on precise measurements to render visual representations of dying species in a way that positions him as an artistic and mathematical creator.
by Keira Seidenberg, Art History/Gender Studies student, McGill University