Kim Foster Gallery is pleased to present Bubble, new photo-based oil prints by E.E. Smith. In this, her tenth solo exhibition at the gallery, Smith continues her interest in depicting the American Landscape, a landscape inflected with the evidence of the prevailing culture. In the work for this show, Smith juxtaposes texts and images to comment on the rhetoric and consequences of the housing bubble and ensuing economic downturn. Her atmospheric photographs, spectral yet specific, depict dwellings, interiors and still lifes. Appended to many of the images are phrases drawn from print advertisements, snatches of on-air commercials, as well as talk radio. Displaced from their original contexts, the words ring hollow, showing themselves to be at best, clichés, and at worst, wishful thinking.
For over twenty years, Smith has been investigating various narrative strategies. Home Seller, one of the four series in the show, is installed in a grid of sixteen prints so that it mimics the real estate advertising section of the Sunday paper. Each grainy photograph depicts a unit of housing – a city apartment, a suburban ranch, a McMansion, for example. Collaged onto the surface of each print is a watercolor with a tag line, a text borrowed from advertising or popular media. Catch phrases such as “sale pending,” “underwater,” or “castle” create a dissonance between the personal value of “home” and the cold jargon of commerce.
In another series, Media Matters, Smith depicts interiors in a dreamy, Pictorialist style. The sensuous still lifes include buzzwords heard from newscasters, politicians, and talk radio, taglines that have become part of the national narrative about the deepening economic crisis. Smith pictures the barrage of verbiage that issues from the TV and radio. It enters our homes, permeating private space with public rhetoric, so that the background noise of the financial debacle becomes the narrative of our intimate lives.
Text has a critical role in the other two series as well. In Metaphor/Still life, Smith plays with visualizing clichés such as “House of Cards” or “Domino Effect.” The titles of each piece provide a literal wording, while the viewer supplies the narrative, inserting his or her own preconceptions and assumptions. The work points to the futility of using language to express the visual and parallels the inability of the chatter emanating from the media to fully clarify the depth of the recession.
In the fourth series, the text resides within the photograph itself. Smith’s images of life proceeding “normally” during this fiscal downturn are simultaneously nostalgic and ominous. An innocent shot of kids enjoying the county fair amusement park is rendered portentous by her inclusion within the frame of the name of the ride: “Freak Out.” Smith’s elegant images are subtly provocative, and ask an audience to reconsider the disconnect between what is seen, what is heard, and what is known.