Client: LA Metro
Location: Los Angeles, CA, United States
Completion date: 2023
Mayer of Munich
Shinique Smith’s mosaic mural for MLK Jr. Station playfully visualizes the cultural richness of South Los Angeles by collaging elements pulled from fashion, pop culture and calligraphy. Honoring the station’s namesake, the artwork also includes a selection of empowering words inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches and autobiography. Calligraphic lines bring together words from speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as they are abstracted and transformed within her beautiful undulating composition influenced by the rhythm and movements of daily life. Reflective, mirror-like slivers within the mosaic will bring the movements and reflections of viewers into the piece to create a lively, ever-changing artwork.
Shinique Smith uses the medium of glass mosaic to share the well-known and empowering words by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that state “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Smith states “I used (the words of Dr. King) as a connective line in the composition that created a rhythm of movement and the heartbeat throughout the piece,." Mirrors within the mosaic bring movement to the piece and allow transit riders to see themselves reflected in the imagery. In the artist’s own words, “The flow of the city, fashion, the graffiti of my youth and Japanese calligraphy influence these gestures, as I extract what I see as the graceful and spiritual qualities in the written word and everyday life.”
In conjunction with her artwork, Smith has engaged the community through a series of events including hands-on activities for local families. Smith visited the studio in Munich and worked closely with Mayer of Munich artisans to translate her diverse textures, kaleidoscopic colors and excerpted text into permanent mosaics. Smith embraced this highly durable glass material often used in transit environments all over the world and deeply connected to this art form that has been traced back as far as the fourth millennium B.C. to the Temple of Uruk in Mesopotamia and the ancient Greek city of Pella.
SHINIQUE SMITH (b. 1971) creates within a multidisciplinary practice that explores ideas of transformation and ritual through materials such as fabric, clothing, and personal belongings, breath, bundling, collage and gesture. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts from Maryland Institute College of Art and a Master of Arts in teaching from Museum School and Tufts University. Her works are included in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Whitney Museum of American Art and have been presented in more than 20 solo exhibitions at prestigious venues that include the California African American Museum; the Minneapolis Art Institute; the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Among her accolades are awards from the Anonymous Was a Woman Award, Joan Mitchell Foundation and Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, as well as through Skowhegan. She has completed public art commissions for the Chicago Transit Authority, Boston’s Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy and New York’s MTA Arts & Design.