Artist transforms space, everyday objects

Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 11:31 am

Sometimes it’s who you know. That’s how the Faulconer Gallery at Grinnell College became the site of Greg Smith’s exhibition “Quality Uncertainty: The Market for Lemons.”

Smith received a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship in 2013 based on his proposal for “Breakdown Lane,” one of two video installations in the exhibition. Guggenheim Fellows are scholars and artists who’ve already demonstrated significant achievements in their respective fields.

Daniel Strong, associate director and curator of exhibitions of the Faulconer Gallery, first visited Greg Smith's studio four years ago. When a slot opened up in the Faulconer Gallery's schedule, Strong invited Smith to exhibit his Guggenheim-funded project in Grinnell before showing it in New York.

“When we bring artists to town, especially from space-starved New York, they are amazed by the size of the Gallery,” Strong says. “It's incredibly liberating for them to have this much space to work in, and it's exciting for us to see how they transform it.”

Due to Smith's educational background — he holds advanced degrees in both physics and art —Strong also sensed his presence on campus might resonate with a broad range of student and faculty interests.

With the help of several students, Smith created immersive environments for “Loop,” a video installation he showed in New York in 2012, as well as for “Breakdown Lane.” The “Breakdown Lane” exhibit includes the many improvised cameras used in making the video as well as a host of other props, including pieces of the car that is the centerpiece.

Smith, who appears in both videos as what he calls an “artifice mechanic,” describes his character as clearly competent, earnest, yet also a little clueless. “He's a guy who’s trying to create something, trying to structure his environment, but who’s also kind of hapless, and, in the end, probably doomed.”

Kind of like that feeling of being stuck on the side of the road.