As Cirrus celebrates its 50th anniversary, we are honored to present a new work by Barbara T. Smith, Rocks, Weeds, Dirt. One of the first artists to adopt the media of xerography, Smith reengages at Cirrus with flatbed photographic technology, placing rocks, weeds, and dirt on the glass of an optical scanner—reprising early works in which she positioned fabric, objects, photographs, and her body on the glass of a leased Xerox 914 photocopy machine. Rocks, Weeds, Dirt uses the physicality of mineralogical and vegetal materials to speak to the artist’s deep sense of commonality in the world. The work recalls the allusion to weeds in Smith’s seminal work at Cirrus in 1971, Field Piece, a grid of one hundred and eighty 9-foot tall translucent fiberglass “blades of grass.” This release, Rocks, Weeds, Dirt, pictures a discreet gathering of materials that speak to both the concrete materiality of our existence, and the artist’s existential amazement of our shared embodiment in the world.
“Ultimately when I went down to Irvine, I was doing these huge environmental sculpture and performances, and neither one of them fit the gallery scene at all. They didn’t even think it was art.”
—Barbara T. Smith
Barbara T. Smith is a foundational figure in West Coast performance art. She was born in 1931 in Pasadena, CA, did undergraduate work in painting, art history, and religion at Pomona College, and received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine in 1971. Smith was a founding member of F-Space Gallery in Irvine, where her early performances emphasized ceremony and corporeality. Early pieces by Smith, including Ritual Meal (1969), Feed Me (1973), and Celebration of the Holy Squash (1971) have become iconic in the history of performance and are legendary examples of the artist’s demanding yet generous work.
Smith has been represented in historic survey exhibitions including Whatever Happened to Sex in Scandinavia? at Office for Contemporary Art, Oslo, Norway (2009); WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution (2008–09), and in shows for Pacific Standard Time, including her solo exhibition, The Radicalization of a ’50s Housewife at UCI. Her work was included in State of Mind at OCMA and the Bronx Museum. In 2005 a retrospective exhibition of her performances, The 21st Century Odyssey Part II: The Performances of Barbara T. Smith was held at Pomona College Museum of Art in Claremont and Kennedy Museum of Art, Ohio University. In 2014, Smith performed Wrestling in Step and Repeat at MOCA, exhibited in A Machinery for Living at Petzel Gallery in NY, and was a recipient of an artist residency at the Civitella Ranieri Visual Arts Fellowship in Umbria, Italy. In 2015 she exhibited The Smell of Almonds: Resin Works, 1968–1982 at Andrew Kreps Gallery in NY and was part of MOMMY at Yale Union in Portland. In 2016 Smith was included in Still Life with Fish: Photography from the Collection at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Her archive was acquired by the Getty Research Institute in 2014.