Allison Smith’s West Wall project, Half-square Triangles, is a vivid work of pieced linen mounted with taut nylon ropes. The form is suggestive of improvised shelters, flags, boxing rings, and trampolines. These, in turn, are associated with the activities that Walter and Elise Haas Fund grantees engage in as they provide infrastructure, create mobility, and support cultural and civic activity in our communities.
Half-square Triangles will be on view during office hours at the Walter and Elise Haas Fund from September 2013 to March 2015.
I am interested in the historical, social, and political meanings of quilts, as well as the idea of a quilt as an arena or platform. We can think of this in reference to the notion of a quilting bee — in which a space of exchange and dialogue is fostered among members of a group, forming the framework for collective action. For me, quilts, with their collective assembly of individual pieces and their often communal creation process, serve as a powerful cypher for Mr. and Mrs. Haas’ and the Foundation’s commitment to pluralistic society.
In the case of this piece created for the West Wall Project, the title ‘Half-square Triangles’ references a popular quilt pattern with many variations. I created a pieced quilt top featuring a kaleidoscopic pattern of vibrant and diverse colors. Some of the material comes from pieces of brightly colored silkscreened fabric used in making the large-scale piece Fancy Work, which I created together with a group of local artists for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s 75th anniversary celebration. This connection to the Museum’s history is particularly fitting; Elise Haas enjoyed a 50-year relationship with SFMOMA, contributed to its collection, and served on both the Women’s Board and the Board of Trustees, acting intermittently as the president of each group.
The idea of a community-made piece was further exemplified by my project The Cries of San Francisco, organized with Southern Exposure, and made possible by a Creative Work Fund grant. This project invoked the historic tradition of street peddling, using melodic songs and calls as a means of offering up social revelations on the temporal employments, habits, and callings of nearly 70 Bay Area artists, craftspeople, and other urban workers.
Since 1995, Allison Smith has exhibited her work professionally throughout the United States as well as in England, France, Germany, New Zealand, and South Korea. She has produced over twenty-five solo exhibitions, installations, performances, and artist-led participatory projects for the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Public Art Fund, The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Berkeley Art Museum, and Indianapolis Museum of Art, among others. She has exhibited her work in over one hundred group exhibitions at galleries and museums including P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center/ Museum of Modern Art New York, Palais de Tokyo, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Andy Warhol Museum, The Mattress Factory, and The Tang Museum. Smith has lectured on her work extensively at art schools and research universities in the United States and abroad, and her work has been featured and reviewed in The New York Times, Artforum, Art in America, Sculpture, and in many other media and scholarly publications. Smith has received generous support from United States Artists, Arts Council England, FOR-SITE Foundation, Creative Work Fund, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Artadia, and New York Foundation for the Arts. Smith is represented by Haines Gallery in San Francisco.
Smith relocated from New York to the San Francisco Bay Area to join the faculty of California College of the Arts, where she is a tenured professor and Chair of the Sculpture Program. Currently she is working on a project for the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as part of their Artists Experiment series.