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"Cauleen Smith: Give It Or Leave It"

The Institute of Contemporary Art at The University of Pennsylvania
Opens Fall 2018
Philadelphia, PA

About the Exhibition

In fall 2018, the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania will present the exhibition, Give It Or Leave It, a solo exhibition of film, video, and sculpture by filmmaker and artist Cauleen Smith, curated by ICA Chief Curator Anthony Elms.

Smith, a 2016 recipient of the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts for film, and a 2014 FCA Grants to Artists recipient in visual arts, has been based in Chicago since 2011. A California native, she was born in Riverside, and graduated from San Francisco State University (BA) and the University of California, Los Angeles (MFA). Smith is known for a group of influential films and videos, practicing an independent production in film and moving image installation.

The exhibition at ICA will feature the cumulative works of Give It Or Leave It (2016, in-progress), a project of film, drawing, collage, and performance that asks broad questions about hospitality by investigating the influence, recent past, and continuing present of the music and life of Alice Coltrane, born Alice McLeod (1937-2007).

The title Give It Or Leave It is a revision of the threat of "take it or leave it." The artist proposes a new rule for a better world: creating something, offering it, and maybe having it rejected—but gifting it anyway? “Give it or leave it" is a rule for the self, not an ultimatum for the other, born of this spirit of generosity, hospitality, and selflessness.

Artist Biography

Photo by 3Arts Foundation.Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist whose work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. Rooted within the discourse of mid-twentieth century experimental film, Smith draws equally from the tactics of structuralism, third world cinema, and science fiction in an attempt to make things that nod to these references while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants.

Smith's films, objects, and installations have been featured in group exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Houston Contemporary Art Museum; the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art; Yerba Buena Center for Arts; the New Museum, and Liepzig and Berlin. Smith has had solo shows at The Kitchen, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Threewalls, Chicago, and Women & Their Work, Austin, TX.

Prior to receiving her 2014 Grants to Artists award, Smith's film Drylongso (1998) won Best Feature Award from Urbanworld Film Festival and the Pan-African Film Festival, Los Angeles. Smith was the recipient of a Creative Audio Archive Research, Experimental Sound Studio Residency (2011), a National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture, Artist Award (2012), a Washington Park Arts Incubator, Arts and Public Life Residency (2013), and a 3Arts Award (2013).

Smith earned a B.A in Cinema from San Francisco State University in 1991 and an M.F.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1998. Smith studied with Trinh T. Minh Ha, Angela Davis, and Lynn Hershman-Gleeson at San Francisco State University. She attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 2007. Smith lives in Chicago while teaching at the Vermont College of Fine Art low-residency M.F.A. program.