May 29, 2023


Digital Art Community

Give It or Leave It: Cauleen Smith

This exhibition is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Art, University of Pennsylvania.
Support is provided by the Pasadena Art Alliance.

All exhibitions at LACMA are underwritten by the LACMA Exhibition Fund. Major annual support is provided by Kitzia and Richard Goodman, Meredith and David Kaplan, and Jeffrey Saikhon, with generous annual funding from Terry and Lionel Bell, the Judy and Bernard Briskin Family Foundation, Kevin J. Chen, Louise and Brad Edgerton, Edgerton Foundation, Emily and Teddy Greenspan, Earl and Shirley Greif Foundation, Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross, Mary and Daniel James, David Lloyd and Kimberly Steward, Kelsey Lee Offield, David Schwartz Foundation, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Anthony and Lee Shaw, Lenore and Richard Wayne, Marietta Wu and Thomas Yamamoto, and The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation.


Cauleen Smith is an interdisciplinary artist whose work reflects on the everyday possibilities of the imagination. The backbone of Smith’s artistic practice is filmmaking, although after years of showing her work in media contexts, she expanded her film and video output through performance, drawing, sculpture, and banners. The series of films and installations in this exhibition reflects Smith’s interest in utopian thinkers, especially artists and musicians who have created new languages through open and improvisational approaches.

Give It or Leave It coalesces separate and unrelated histories of spirituality, creativity, and utopianism into a unified emotional cosmos. Musician Alice Coltrane and her ashram, a 1966 shoot by photojournalist Bill Ray at Watts Towers, artist Noah Purifoy and his desert assemblages, and black spiritualist Rebecca Cox Jackson provide sources of inspiration.

The title of the exhibition, Give It or Leave It, challenges the colloquial “take it or leave it,” and reflects the role of generosity and creation in the spiritual and artistic output of the historical figures that inhabit the exhibition. Smith proposes a new rule for a better world: creating something, offering it, and gifting it—regardless of whether the gesture is accepted or rejected.