Allison Smith: Common Goods


Thu - Sun, Jun 15 to Aug 6, 12:00pm - 6:00pm


Level 3, Corridor, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy St

Presented by: Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts
Admission: Free and open to the public
Runs: June 15-August 6
Galleries: 12–6 PM,  Thu–Sun
More information

Allison Smith presents Common Goods (2017) as an installation at the Carpenter Center and related workshops in the nearby Cambridge Common Park in conjunction with the City’s public art summer series Common Exchange. Engaging the Cambridge Commons’ history within broader concepts of "the commons," as a utopian ideal and critical site of communication and exchange, Smith presents an installation and series of performative public-making activities.  The installation and workshop poetically reflect on: the common carpenter, carpentry as commons, simple acts of making and repairing common, everyday things, and the role of objects in exploring the things we have in common. Through a selection of colonial-era objects, made in the area, Smith prompts discussions that address issues of statehood, revolution, and the capacity of objects to effect and reflect change.

In Common Goods at the Carpenter Center, Allison Smith continues investigations she began during her 2014 Josep Lluis Sert Practitioner in the Arts residency, in which she visited a series of local makers engaged in historic 18th and 19th-century crafts.

Smith’s current installation is anchored by an oversized sack-back Windsor armchair (also called a “Double Windsor”) that is large enough to encompass two sitters in its sculpted saddled oval seat. The chair will be a mobile work of public art moving into and out of public space throughout the summer, shifting from CCVA to the Common for workshops and performances during select evenings and weekends. Additionally on view is a "Sack-back," a sack-like covering that is pulled over the backs of these chairs with the purpose of warding off winter drafts in the early American colonies. With its splayed, turned blunt-arrow legs and steam-bent arms with carved knuckle handholds, Smith's chair offers a formal embrace and protected space for intimate exchanges between invited woodworkers and chance passersby.

The conversations prompted by Smith’s installation, explore a series of individual functional objects, which, like the chair itself, suggest a social and poetic response to the politics of our time. Acting as literal conversation pieces, these objects on view at CCVA, also serve as possible props to drive new historical narratives. Smith's subjective inventory of objects– a portable writing box, scrollwork mirror, hobby horse, pack basket, and magic wand–make periodic appearances on the Cambridge Common as they remain on display behind and under glass at CCVA.

Common Exchange, a series of public art installations and performances in and around the historic park, is organized by the City of Cambridge’s Public Art Program with Dina Deitsch.