Sei Smith (b. 1990, New York City) studied painting at The School of Art Institute of Chicago. He had his first solo exhibition in 2011 and has since shown both nationally and internationally. In 2012, Smith and his brother founded Apostrophe NYC, an art gallery/curation experiment. They notably staged guerrilla pop-ups in the stairwell of the Whitney, the courtyard at MoMa PS1 and a Brooklyn subway station. Along with his art practice, Sei continues to curate shows/happenings.
Sei Smith’s work from Reflections 1-2 is founded in the concept of phenomenology, a mode of thinking established at the dawn of the twentieth century by Edmund Husserl. Phenomenology emphasizes awareness of one’s own life as life occurs. It suggests that we interact with the phenomena of our world through experience, and that these experiences result in us being people who play, think, feel, reflect. The revelations we form—the ones we find to be most true—occur to us because we choose to participate in life as unique and subjective individuals.
As you consider the course of your own sensory involvement with the work, Smith’s kinship with these ideas becomes apparent. The fluorescent shadows cast over plains of white act as invitations that draw the eye’s attention before sustaining your gaze. An intense quality of focus can be felt in the presence of these works, one that is rarely experienced in our time, as we grow dependent on new forms of communication and technology.
Smith has said that the shapes, shadows, and textures of his Reflections work are unavoidable elements: “But to see is to be attracted, and to be attracted is to desire a kind of unattainable understanding. This is, to me, the beginning of every experience I’ve had with art.”