Production Expressionism

Josh Smith Installation David Zwirner 2019

“Painting is just a really good vehicle for me, to move what’s in me outward. I love this format of a flat object, which I can put part of myself into. I can take certain things out, while putting something else in, moving things around, and whatever. It’s a created world where no one’s getting hurt. It’s all invented and recorded on this surface, often in a single size because I just like the uniformity—think of a writer with a stack of standard papers, which he or she is going to turn into a novel, so here they go—and I just think “okay this is what I’ve got to work with, how am I going to get this together?” For each show I just form a family tree within my own interest and capacity. At some point in my life, I shouldn’t be so worried about shit, knowing that shit does happen in spite of my will.” [Josh Smith in conversation with Phong Bui]

Josh Smith Installation David Zwirner 2019

“Josh Smith, the “What, me worry?” cavalier of painterly jazz, keeps ’em coming with well over a hundred fast, loose, hot-colored canvases—even Smith’s blues smolder—and about a dozen gawky ceramic sculptures of traffic cones. “Emo Jungle,” Smith calls the show (at the Zwirner gallery, through June 15). A frieze of fifty-five pictures puts a vaguely heraldic turtle motif through changes of attack and pattern, from frenziedly visceral to near-doily-like precious. Elsewhere, devils cavort in red Hells, and Death, with his trusty scythe and empty mien, stands in tropical settings against enormous suns or moons. But don’t be scared, kids. The striations of the Reaper’s cloak are like riffs on Washington Color School stripes. These works are to seriously intended paintings as stuffed lions are to beasts of the Serengeti. All the better to take one home and imagine that it loves you.” [Peter Schjeldahl on Josh Smith Emo Jungle]

Josh Smith Installation David Zwirner 2019

“A hallway of postcard-size “Small Reapers” in appealing touristy burned-wood frames leads to the second gallery, which offers red-on-red devils and more, mostly middle-size Reaper paintings. The last space harbors a gaudy frieze of 60 canvases, 4 feet by 3 feet, of stylized turtles, shown on their backs with elongated birdlike heads, a design that recalls the animal designs of Mimbres pottery. The turtles’ shells are painted every which way, as are the areas around them giving new life to the old formalist figure-ground duality. The visual deluge of this terrific if vexatious show meditates on painting as object, performance, psychic communication, pleasure and, yes, salable product.” [Roberta Smith on Josh Smith]


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