"Smith's attempts to recreate an early, nineteenth-century space of fantasy and play, with the aid of twenty-first-century material culture and photomechanical technology, lay bare the simple fact that certain textures go extinct -- certain textures are irrevocably lost to the reception of our eyes, fingertips, and tongues. [...] It is here that Smith's artistic work takes hold, where she labors to disentangle our collective and personal fantasies of the past from the actual materials we have been bequeathed." "Smith's work physically sorts the pasts we are ever-producing (in a sense recreating) from the history we will ultimately leave for the future." "Smith has the uncanny ability to direct our attention to those instances where the textures are all wrong, and where it is impossible to get them right. This is not to shame museum preparators or historical reenactors into corrective action. By pinpointing these lapses, Smith releases us all from our obsessive, completist responsibilities, and from our desires for (historical) veracity and wholeness. By indulging in history's material inconsistencies, Smith allows us to focus on what we have 'at hand,' and to differently examine and experience the aesthetic possibilities of our surroundings and the complicated amalgamation of temporal and cultural matrices from which they are forged." -- Nicole Archer, Set Dressing exhibition catalog
 
"Before Allison Smith was crying out in San Francisco, she was peddling in Berkeley and across the Lakes District in Great Britain. Before that, she mustered in the Pennsylvania countryside and on Governors Island, just off the coast of Manhattan. Along the way she has been parading, gathering, apprenticing, servicing, stockpiling, demonstrating, and arming, to name a few of the ways in which she acts out in the world. Her acting out always occasions or is occasioned by making, as if acting and making might be the faces of a 
Möbius strip, where a line begun on one side seamlessly traverses to the other, and back again." -- Elizabeth Thomas, The Cries of San Francisco exhibition catalog

"Across Smith's oeuvre, a range of contributors shape the work, such that the dispersed agency of multiple participants may be seen as a production methodology. In this sense, Smith's works can be considered forms of 'trading zones' for transacting money, labor, ownership, expertise, and historical interpretation." -- Rebecca Uchill, FutureAnterior
 
"Artist Allison Smith has been combing the metaphorical grounds of the Civil War and reenactment culture since receiving her MFA from Yale University in 1999. Smith forges ties between American history, social activism, and craft...As a feminist, Smith views history as contestable. History should be revised, retold, and reinterpreted. Moreover, dredging up a difficult or painful history can be cathartic." -- Jacquelyn Gleisner, Art21
 
"Social practice is a relatively new term for art that puts less emphasis on objects made for individual contemplation and more energy into projects involving participation, activism or community organizing. Of course, plenty of artists were making art like this before critics and scholars christened it 'social practice.' One such artist is Allison Smith. [...] So, the question arises: What makes it art? And particularly, in this case, what distinguishes Ms. Smith’s practice from those of, say, re-enactors? The answer lies in the context (Ms. Smith is a recognized artist and the venue is a contemporary museum), but also the subtler areas of approach. Rather than merely celebrating war or national identity, Ms. Smith questions these categories...and how what we call 'patriotism' might very well be viewed, from various perspectives, in a different light: Were American insurgents revolutionaries or terrorists? Who owns the claim on 'American' history? [...] While Ms. Smith’s practice seems initially conservative — what could align her more with the Tea Party movement’s revival of colonial garb? — there is a serious and studied subversion at its core." -- Martha Schwendener, The New York Times

"Smith’s work addresses national service while also upsetting stereotypes of the military, linking that world to craft in unexpected ways." -- John Zarobell, Art Practical

"Smith casts a wide cultural net, but her focus on war and her desire to link it to the home is clear. Turning artifacts from each into handicrafts, she renders the military and the domestic equivalent - which is chilling." -- Frances de Vuono, Art in America
 
"Through her deployment of props, handicraft, recreated artifacts, and memorabilia, [Allison Smith] allies the personal to a broader understanding of the social infrastructures that became part of an American nationalist culture. [She] reconfigures American nationalist mythology in order to interrogate a broader understanding of social mores within the complexities of U.S. history." "For artists like Smith […] different relationships are formed not only between the persistence of skills and an indebtedness to tradition - making a connection to the collective social message that imbued works from the 1960s and 1970s - but also to the process of crafting. […] since the mid-1990s 'relational aesthetics' has become an increasingly popular neologism for a series of practices identified in contemporary art by the French curator Nicolas Bourriaud. Central to Bourriaud's vision is the artist as a facilitator rather than a 'maker,' one who regards art as a form of information exchanged between audiences. The process of crafting, social interaction, and collaboration between the artist and audience embraces a creativity which permeates our personal lives at all levels and on a global scale." -- Janis Jeffries, Extra/Ordinary: Craft and Contemporary Art

"Ideas from traditional public sculpture, socially engaged art, and performance all find expression in Smith’s work, but it is craft— an unlikely critical resource—that she situates between these apparently conflicting arenas of creative practice, thereby exposing their limits." "She brings modern craft’s conceptual hybridity—as an open-ended arena of social and material practice—into association with 'civic practices,' defined by sociologist Nina Eliasoph as 'the fundamentally sociable processes by which citizens create contexts for political conversation in the potential public sphere.'" "Utopian and critical approaches coexist, not always comfortably, within the marrow of this work. Smith calls attention to the unconventional contours of craft by using it to associate conflicting ideas about civic culture." "By foregrounding nineteenth-century notions of associational life, Smith [...] suggests the relevance of these ideas to contemporary political culture; however, Smith recognizes that dissensus and difference—and the messy process of working together—are more important to civic culture than individual expression." "Smith doesn’t view craft as inherently participatory; it’s not simply an activity that everyone may enjoy as a reflection of personal or cultural history, a repository of community values, or a respite from the dehumanizing features of modern life. Rather, Smith conceptualizes craft as carrying messages that may be variously productive, problematic, and political." -- Jennifer Geigel Mikulay, Journal of Modern Craft


"Her subject is a skewed Americana at once nostalgic and biting, one that includes quirky re-creations of theorem paintings, Pennsylvania German sgraffito stoneware, mold-blown jelly glasses, walking sticks, paper flowers and paperback books, as well as such oddities as George Washington's Masonic apron. Ms. Smith's work adheres to the convention of both the room-size museological display (Barbara Bloom, Fred Wilson and Mark Dion) and the handmade, not quite trompe l'oeil facsimile (Kevin Landers, Tom Friedman, Jonathan Seliger). To these precedents she adds a distinctive awareness of craft as technique, history and identity; a wonderful color sense; and intimations of narrative complexities that suggest the down-home equivalent of Matthew Barney." -- Roberta Smith, The New York Times 

 
Bibliography Section Article Bibliography Section Catalog Bibliography Section Web Link PDF icon displayed by thumbnail Sold Dot