Join Daniel and Brett Sundheim Chief Curator Anthony Elms for an in-depth tour of Cauleen Smith: Give It or Leave It.
Through films, objects, and installation, Give It or Leave It offers an emotional axis by which to navigate four distinct universes: Alice Coltrane and her ashram, a 1966 photo shoot by Bill Ray at Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, Noah Purifoy and his desert assemblages, and black spiritualist Rebecca Cox Jackson and her Shaker community. These locations, while not technically utopian societies, embody sites of historical speculation and radical generosity between artist and community. In reimagining a future through this mix, Smith casts a world that is black, feminist, spiritual, and unabashedly alive.
The attempts referenced by Smith do not turn their backs on the here and now. Each effort, in its own way, embedded gestures of self-realization in current events and social publics. Building upon this, each exploration served as antidote to a pervasive hopelessness perceived in American society. This defiantly aspirational energy drives the exhibition. As an idiom, “give it or leave it,”mutates the coercive attitude behind,”take it or leave it.” Smith’s recast proposes a liberating rule for a better world—creating, offering, and gifting, regardless of a gesture’s recognition, acceptance, or rejection. In this refusal to summon a reaction, one surrenders to possibilities of generosity, hospitality, and a collective destiny. Give It or Leave It calls to the self, refusing to issue an ultimatum that demands another’s response.
Support for Cauleen Smith: Give It or Leave It has been provided by the Ellsworth Kelly Award. The Ellsworth Kelly Award made possible by The Ellsworth Kelly Foundation and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts. Additional support has been provided by B. Z. & Michael Schwartz, Meredith & Bryan Verona, and Susan Weiler.
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