Installation artist Allison Smith will serve as the inaugural Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Visiting Artist in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Smith is known for creating large-scale works that critically engage popular forms of historical reenactment, along with crafts and other traditional cultural conventions, to redo, restage, and refigure historical memories.
Launched in partnership with Washington University's Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, the Freund Visiting Artist program joins a similar collaboration — the Henry L. and Natalie E. Freund Teaching Fellows program — between the Sam Fox School and the Saint Louis Art Museum, which was initiated in 1995. Both programs are made possible with support from the Henry L. and Natalie Edison Freund Art Endowment Fund.
During the fall, Smith, an assistant professor of sculpture at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco, will make multiple visits to Sam Fox School and will participate in an interdisciplinary course titled "Past Present, Present Tense." Led by Lauren Adams, assistant professor of painting, the course will investigate the use of historical research as a strategy within contemporary artistic practice. Smith's work will culminate with a solo exhibition at the Kemper Art Museum, curated by Adams, in spring 2010.
Smith's installations draw on well-known and popular U.S. historical sites, "living history" museums and Civil War battle reenactments to explore the conventions of craft and their role in constructing national identity. At the same time, her work refigures the relationship between American history, the invisible identities of marginalized groups, and viewers' collective role in shaping politics and history.
For The Muster, a public art event that took place on New York's Governors Island in 2005, Smith enlisted hundreds of individuals to fashion uniforms, build campsites, and declare responses to the question "What are you fighting for?" In Notion Nanny (2005-07) Smith played the role of itinerant apprentice, working with blacksmiths, lace-makers, linen-weavers, and other artisans throughout England and the United States.
Victory Hall (2005) featured 100 wooden rifles arranged in decorative patterns as well as five life-sized dolls constructed, in the 19th century manner, from porcelain and stuffed linen. For Jugs, Pitchers, Bottles, and Crocks, Household Linens and Yardage in Stock (2008) Smith worked with Pittsburgh potter Bernard Jakub to create a series of stoneware vessels in which text and traditional cobalt blue imagery commemorate contemporary events.
Smith has exhibited in venues throughout the United States and abroad, including the Palais de Tokyo in Paris; the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams; the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh; the Arario Gallery in Cheonan, South Korea; and the P.S.1 MoMA Contemporary Art Center in Long Island City, New York. In 2008 alone she produced projects for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and The Mattress Factory in Pittsburgh. She is currently developing a large-scale project for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Born in Manassas, VA, in 1972, Smith received both a BA in psychology from the New School for Social Research and a BFA from Parsons School of Design in 1995. In 1999 she earned an MFA from the Yale University School of Art, and in 1999-2000 she participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program. She previously taught at Columbia University, Parsons School of Design, New York University, Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore, and the Institute for American Universities in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Natalie Edison Freund, who died in 2007, was a Washington University alumna as well as a past member of the Alumni Board of Governors, the Sam Fox School National Council, and the board of the Saint Louis Art Museum. Her husband, Henry L. Freund, was owner of Freund Baking Co. in St. Louis. He died in 1980.
The Sam Fox School supports the creation, study, and exhibition of multidisciplinary and collaborative work. Offering rigorous art and architecture education at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, the Sam Fox School links four academic units — the College of Art, College of Architecture, Graduate School of Art and Graduate School of Architecture & Urban Design — with the university's nationally recognized Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum.
The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum boasts one of the finest university collections in the United States and is committed to furthering critical thinking and visual literacy through a vital program of exhibitions, publications, and accompanying events. The museum dates back to 1881, making it the oldest art museum west of the Mississippi River.