Zak Smith, The Title Didn’t Really Explain Anything So He
Kavi Gupta Gallery is pleased to present “Half the Artist’s Proceeds From This Show Will Go to Benefit the Victims of God and Capitalism”, the first solo exhibition in Chicago of New York based painter Zak Smith. The title refers to the artist’s intention to donate a portion of his take from the show to various causes such as the West Memphis 3’s legal defense fund and anarchist/activists Food Not Bombs. The exhibition will feature paintings on paper including abstractions as well as portraits, and drawings from the ever-growing autobiographical piece “Drawings Made Around The Time I Became A Porn Star”. The paintings continue in Smith’s uniquely intricate style that finds inspiration from sources that range from comic books and illuminated manuscripts to Art Nouveau and Austrian Secessionism.
Women dominate Smith’s work, particularly his series of portraits of friends in the sex industry. Though this simple fact is extremely loaded, Smith is more interested in visual provocation–the use of aggressive colors and unique paint techniques coupled with an obsessive attention to detail inevitably reveals the beauty and intelligence of these women – an intrigue revealing complex but human individuals embedded in an unpredictable world. His distinctive hand evokes a raw tension between the abandon of graffiti, the graphic intensity of comic books and the quiet monumentality of classical portraiture. Far more confrontational than voyeuristic, the portraits look directly at the viewer. These are not timid women we are encountering and Smith is a part of this culture – not a spectator but a participant.
“Drawings Made Around The Time I Became A Porn Star”-the artist’s sketches from time spent as a cog in the gears of Hustler, Vivid Video and other agents of Silicone Valley, makes this abundantly clear, but more than that, the enormous series, (following in the footsteps of Smith’s most celebrated work–illustrations for every page of Thomas Pynchon’s 760-page novel, “Gravity’s Rainbow”) offers a window into Smith’s frenetic world and working process.
The environments of his subjects are often cluttered with personal objects and iconography. These possessions gradually evolve into abstracted ornate moments in themselves revealing intricate patterns and moments of seemingly invented or imagined space. Zak Smith’s abstract paintings take this invention a step further, offering an illegible but eerily specific world, as chaotic, hypnotic, and carefully limned as these environments.
Zak Smith was born in 1976 in Syracuse, NY and lives and works in New York City. After receiving his MFA from Yale University in 2001, Smith was included in several museum exhibitions including the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and shows at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Smith has had solo exhibitions at Fredericks & Freiser, NY and Franklin Artworks in Minneapolis and his work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, NY, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Two books have been published on Zak Smith’s work: Pictures of Girls and Pictures Showing What Happens on Each Page of Thomas Pynchon’s Novel Gravity’s Rainbow. His work is also included in the publication Vitamin D published by Phaidon Press.