The Avenue Concept Providence Downtown Public Art Tour 2024


Providence, Rhode Island 02906, United States

Created By: The Avenue Concept


Location: Kennedy Plaza

Lionel Smit's MORPHOUS is an exploration of hybrid identity and its ever-changing nature within South Africa's social landscape. This particular piece evokes a question of time, of past and future, and the balance point at which his country found itself at the time of the sculpture's creation in 2014, one year after Nelson Mandela's passing. In 2014, South Africa embarked upon yet another chapter, a post-Apartheid and post-Nelson Mandela South Africa, a future South Africa. This "double-vision" is a foretelling, and an acknowledgement of what has already passed and an anticipation of what is still to come.

The figures are charged with an emotive and gestural energy, a hallmark of Smit's evocative work. Viewers familiar with Ancient Roman mythology and iconography will undoubtedly think of Janus, the double headed deity of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, frames, and endings.

The end of 2023, the time of the sculpture’s installation here in Providence, is also a time of transition broadly in The United States, and locally here in Rhode Island. It is a powerful message of representation to consider this reference to Janus when depicting a young Black woman.

Lionel Smit is one of South Africa’s most prolific and exalted artists. His artistic diversity is pursued through a variety of mediums and he is best known for his contemporary portraiture. His art is defined by a deeply rooted symbiotic relationship between sculpture and painting. Today, each of Lionel Smit’s works offers us an entry point into the variety and richness that lies beneath every face we encounter in life, whether applied in bronze or paint. The blending of techniques across genres is a display of Smit’s work in multiple media, all bearing a visible and tangible overlap.

Lionel Smit was born in 1982 in Pretoria, South Africa. Smit has achieved global success, including sell-out exhibitions from London to Hong Kong. Smit’s painting received the 2013 Visitors’ Choice - BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery in London. Museum shows include solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Miami and at the Didrichsen Art Museum in Helsinki, Finland. In recent years, Smit’s sculpture MORPHOUS was exhibited in Union Square, New York. Over the past 10 years he has established a substantial international following with collectors including the Standard Chartered Bank, Laurence Graff Art Collection at Delaire Graff Wine Estate and Didrichsen Art Museum in Finland.

Material: Bronze, steel

Artist IG: @lionelsmitstudio

Sponsors: Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, City of Providence, Providence City Council

This point of interest is part of the tour: The Avenue Concept Providence Downtown Public Art Tour 2024


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