Sable Elyse Smith

Assembly Gallery Activation:

Summer 2017

In January 2017, Recess launched Assembly in a satellite space in downtown Brooklyn. To expand upon our mission to connect artists and publics, Assembly is at once an artist-led diversion program for court-involved youth and a public storefront gallery.  Assembly is located at 370 Schermerhorn St. in Downtown Brooklyn.

Public Programs

August 3, 6-8pm
LANDSCAPES & PLAYGROUNDS: Artist Book Launch and Reading

August 18, 5-7pm
Cycle 3 Closing Reception

Sable Elyse Smith

From June 23–September 1, 2017, Assembly’s public storefront gallery will host and then the street lights–like a warning bell, a project by Sable Elyse Smith consisting of constellation of works that simultaneously reference sites of play and enclosure. Similar to Recess’s seasoned Session program in Soho, which allows artists to pursue works in progress in a public setting, Assembly grants participating artists the opportunity to activate and add to the space cumulatively, working toward an evolving installation rather than a static exhibition.

and then the street lights–like a warning bell trains its attention on the significance of two sites of fantasy: the landscape and the playground. Smith considers these sites as they relate specifically to prison environments, where landscape murals commonly adorn visiting room walls, vast swaths of land often serve as a background to the campuses, and the contentious interior spaces give rise to complex emotional landscapes for those imbricated in the system. Through works that present landscape in varying forms, Smith will investigate the ways in which multiple modes of image making and production feed into or push against common narratives of incarceration. For example, the Polaroid photos taken in prison visitation rooms in front of murals capture choreographed moments of intimacy between inmates and their visitors but do not reveal the micro-economy and unspoken negotiations embedded in the creation and circulation of these photos—which must be purchased with many hours of labor by the inmates. By presenting textual and depicted landscapes in the gallery space, Smith will invite visitors to engage with the images—perhaps even by featuring them in their own gallery snapshots—while also interrogating the ways in which the subject matter is loaded with reference to embedded power structures.

In addition to her work on and then the street lights–like a warning bell in the gallery space, Smith will participate as a guest teaching artist during the educational diversion programs, and she will collaborate with lead teaching artist Leonardo to incorporate material from her project into the program’s curriculum. Smith will also guide program participants in creating a final project that, once complete, will appear alongside her work in the storefront gallery.

During this cycle, Melanie Crean will serve as the Assembly Research Artist. She will investigate issues that underlie the workshop curriculum—including the use of visual storytelling, and embodied learning and revisualization through media, to mitigate stress and promote agency. She will also work with Smith to prototype different methods during the program, while contributing to the larger curricular work that they are co-authoring as part of a collaborative project with Assembly Lead Teaching Artist Shaun Leonardo, entitled Mirror / Echo / Tilt.

Open to the public Thursday – Saturday, 12-6pm

370 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217


About the Artist

Sable Elyse Smith is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and educator based in New York. Her practice considers memory and trauma while enacting an undoing of language. She works from the archive of her own body creating new syntax for knowing and not knowing, thereby marking the difference between witnessing and watching. To see is unbearable. She has performed at the Museum of Modern Art, the New Museum, Eyebeam, and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA. Her work has also been screened at Birkbeck Cinema in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries, London, Artist Television Access, San Francisco, and MoMA Ps1, New York. Her writing has been published in Radical Teacher, Studio Magazine and No Tofu Magazine and she is currently working on her first book. Smith has received grants & fellowships from Creative Capital, Fine Arts Work Center,  the Queens Museum, Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, the Franklin Furnace Fund, and Art Matters. She is currently part-time faculty at Parsons The New School for Design and will be a visiting Faculty at Virginia Commonwealth University this Fall in the Sculpture and Extended Media department.




Major funding for Assembly is provided by The Horace Goldsmith Foundation, The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, and The Salomon Foundation. This program is also made possible with donated space and program support from Alloy Development