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Animal Slumbers

Artist: Jennie Smith
painting | Graphite and watercolor on paper | 381x432mm | 2004

A variety of creatures, both real and fantastic, populate Jennie Smith's graphite and watercolor drawings. Individual animals appear in small, delicately rendered compositions, while in larger drawings, they are assembled into formal structures suggesting narratives of collective action and ecosystems. In a series of small works entitled Animal Its Habitat (2004), a lone bird or fox, among other animals, is depicted with just its head emerging from small mounds. In the Animals Slumber series (2004), all of nature's creatures lie tucked in sleeping bags, surrounded by flowers and in a state of utter stasis, togetherness, and contentment. When Smith gathers animals together, the drawings often become dynamic and evocative of the forces of entropy and social change. The large-scale Kite Wars (2004) presents a tangled mass of kites, which take on the likeness of a multitude of imagined creatures. Thin lines of string wind through and connect the kites, bunching some together in groups and allowing others to drift off solitarily. Migration (2003) provides an aerial view of a nomadic community on the move. Small tents in a variety of shapes are clustered together around campfires, and the linear forms that spread out across the blank landscape of the page trace the migratory patterns. We'll Never Tell You Where We Have Gone (2004) is more explicit in its narrative of ecological awareness and social change. The work depicts a large spaceship igniting its engines for takeoff. As Smith describes the scene, All of the animals of the world have recently held a meeting, making the decision to build an aircraft and take off to a new planet, bringing what was left of the earth's natural resources. This activity is portrayed in the densely patterned surface of the ship, which is overflowing with a variety of animals, plants, and other organic forms. In Smith's imagining, the animal kingdom saves itself from the reckless waste of resources as consistently practiced by humans. Although the animals in Smith's drawings might seem fanciful, their apparent emphasis on the value of cooperation, community, and dynamic change serves as a political message directed at contemporary society.

Exhibitions

Whitney Biennial 2006 | 2006.03.02 - 2006.05.28 | Whitney Museum of American Art (old museum)(New York City, NY, United States)

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