Kaneem Smith draws inspiration from a familial and historical standpoint of personal experience and the human condition. As a mixed media artist and sculptor with a background in fibers, these concepts run a complex thread throughout her body of work. Smith’s work challenges viewers to contemplate global concerns of ethical trade, the West’s over-consumption of natural resources, and colonialist commodification of underprivileged producers and their products.
Smith’s Migrant Barrier Tapestry explores the tumultuous relationship between trade, consumption, and commodities. The tapestry is made with burlap and covered with indications of coffee beans that have been imported/exported from around the world. Combined, these elements serve as a visual reminder of the trade of natural materials, specifically cotton and coffee. The size of the tapestry speaks to the scope of migrant issues around ethical trade, the over consumption of natural resources, and commodification of underprivileged producers and their products. The tapestry was initially conceived to connect Puerto Rico and Galveston, Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria’s immense agricultural harm. “The utilization of fiber material as a primary medium in my work is entwined with racial, classicism, sexual inequality, social politics, and American history for example, and all of it continues to drive and motivate my practice.” — Smith
The 2021 Texas Biennial: A New Landscape, A Possible Horizon, is a geographically-led, independent survey of contemporary art in Texas. For the seventh iteration of the Texas Biennial, the project is distributed across five Texas museums, featuring exhibitions, programs, and works of public art in San Antonio and Houston from September 1, 2021, through January 31, 2022.
For the first time, the Biennial features artists whom the organizers have termed “Texpats.” “Texpats” refers to Texas natives and artists working in any part of the world whose work takes Texas or its history as its subject matter. The fifty-one artists featured in the 2021 Texas Biennial range from emerging artists and collectives to well-established and internationally celebrated artists working in sculpture, film and experimental video, photo-based media, installation, sound, painting, printmaking, music and performance, social practice, and public art.
Principal themes examined in the Biennial include the mutable histories contained within objects and people, activism and issues of racial and social justice, and narratives unique to the history and land of Texas.