Nicola Vassell Gallery is pleased to present Ming Smith: Evidence, its inaugural exhibition and the first presentation by the artist in New York in over four years.
Evidence features a combination of rare, vintage silver gelatin and never-before-exhibited archival prints, spanning the arc of Smith's fifty-year career. The assembled pictures exemplify the artist's keen, enduring eye and her use of the photographic medium to depict charged atmospheres and surreal states with a cast of evocative landscapes, blurred silhouettes, dynamic street scenes and revered cultural figures including, Brassaï, Grace Jones and Sun Ra.
Smith's lyrical narratives tease out the complex emotions and thoughts deeply embedded in the minds and environments of her subjects. In engaging the world around her, she makes perceptible much of the unseen psychological and social complexities that lurk beneath the surface. Her practice is a tale of several decades spent examining transitory occurrence-intervals at which figures blur, atmospheres alter, vistas haunt, souls whir, and opposites engage in allied work. Smith's photographic approach is both scientific and celestial, and experimentation and adventure mark her fascination with detail as it stretches across form and mood. Her dedication to music, dance, and theater underlines the synergistic excellence that characterizes her secondary, if metaphoric, occupations as anthropologist, historian, and poet. Ultimately, Smith's work depicts the beauty of Black life and its struggle for visibility, over time, in the wider cultural landscape.
Ming Smith became a photographer when she was given a camera at a young age. She was the first female member to join Kamoinge, a collective of Black photographers in New York in the 1960s who documented Black life. Her work was first published in the Black Photographer's Annual in 1973 and she would go on to be the first Black woman photographer to be included in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Smith was recently included in 'Working Together: The Photographers of the Kamoinge Workshop' at the Whitney Museum of Art, 'Soul of a Nation' at Tate Modern in collaboration with Brooklyn Museum, Crystal Bridges and The Broad. She was also featured in Brooklyn Museum's 'We Wanted A Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-85.' Her work was exhibited in conjunction with Arthur Jafa's 'A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions' at Serpetine Galleries, London; Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin; Galerie Rodolfinium, Prague and Moderna Museet, Stockholm. Smith's work is in the collections of MoMA, the Whitney Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.