Nyugen E. Smith was born in Jersey City, NJ in 1976 to a Trinidadian mother and Haitian father. He spent his formative years growing up in his mother’s homeland-a tropical, former British colony where African customs and traditions are still woven in to the cultural fabric. Upon moving back to the United States to live with his mother, he and his brother were often taken to dance performances, art galleries, museums, Jazz concerts, and other cultural events which celebrated Black Heritage. This exposure would later prove itself to have been essential to Smith’s current artistic investigations.
In 1994 he enrolled at Seton Hall University as a Political Science major with the intention of eventually pursing a Law degree. During his time there, he became involved in the dramatic arts landing roles in the the university’s theater program as well as roles as an extra in television and film. In 1998 he earned a BA in Fine Art from Seton Hall University and began to actively participate in the art scene in downtown Jersey City which was anchored by the historic 111 1st street artist enclave.
Smith began working for a broadcasting company in New York and became an on-air commercial copywriter. He and his brother produced and recorded Hip Hop formatted commercials for which they received national attention. After leaving the company in 2004, he fully dedicated himself to the pursuit of his career as a visual artist. Since then, Smith has exhibited widely at museums and galleries in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. His Bundle House series which he began in 2005 gained attention from notable curators and in 2008 he was included in two exhibitions curated by Rocio Aranda-Alvarado (now at El Museo Del Barrio NY, NY) at the Jersey City Museum where he debuted a work titled Bundle House Worldwide: Soon Come. This ambitious work of art established him as an emerging artist to watch. Most recently, Smith has been investigating the psychological, cultural and social implications of colonialism in Africa and the West Indies using an inter-disciplinary approach working in mixed media sculpture/assemblages, performance and video art. Methods of free association, repetition, spontaneity, and improvisation governs the production of his work. He has been a visiting artist and guest panelist at Studio Museum Harlem, Pratt Institute, University of Boston-Amherst and Seton Hall University. Smith lives and works in Jersey City, NJ.