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[Ruminations on] the joy fantastic, 2022. Mixed media on three-dimensional wood assemblage.

Key details


  • 25 April 2022


  • RCA

Read time

  • 1 minute

Pretend Gravitas and Dream Aborted Givens, an exhibition of new works by Alexandria Smith, Head of MA Painting at the Royal College of Art, opens at Gagosian’s Park & 75 location in New York later this week. Organised by writer and curator Antwaun Sargent, the exhibition is Smith’s first solo presentation within the gallery.

Pretend Gravitas and Dream Aborted Givens sees Smith continues her investigation of selfhood alongside the confidences, contradictions, and uncertainties of the queer Black femme body through allegorical assemblage paintings and collage drawings housed in the artist’s custom frames.

“This work is a display of futurist thinking, imagining other worlds not tethered to the past or present, in which magic, tenderness and liberation happen. Since we don’t feel in a linear fashion, why can’t that concept manifest in another world, translating real-life experiences into an imagined landscape that welcomes hybridity and difference? What might it look like to conjure a dream within this painted realm?”

Alexandria Smith Head of MA Painting

The title Pretend Gravitas and Dream Aborted Givens is inspired by a 2011 essay by Smith’s mentor, the late writer Greg Tate, and is intended as a tribute to him. In this essay, Tate wrote that Smith’s characters seem to 'identify totally with the need for all ghosts, freaks, and spooks to make peace with the everyday realms of the mundane and the quotidian. The unmagic realism of it all. The ghost world of grownfolks with its dull grey-areas, pretend gravitas and dream-aborting givens.'

Running from 28 April to 4 June, the exhibition at Gagosian is one of two major solo showings of Smith’s work taking place this summer in the US – with Smith also set to create an immersive multimedia environment titled Memoirs of a Ghost Girlhood: a Black Girl’s Window at the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, New Hampshire, which opens in late June.

Find out more about the exhibition

Discover our MA Painting programme.

MA Painting
Painting 2019 Elise Broadway.jpg