Alexis Smith at Craig Krull Gallery

Alexis Smith, Swan Song, 2016. On Point. Craig Krull Gallery. Photo Credit Amy Kaeser.

Alexis Smith: On Point

Craig Krull Gallery

By Amy Kaeser

On view through May 27th


On Point is the latest exhibition of seasoned artist Alexis Smith. The show is both humorous and contemplative in its use of found objects and materials. Smith’s collages made from thrift store finds, swap meet gems, and a few personal mementos suggest a thoughtful process of assemblage for each work on display. The oil paintings and needlepoints seem more at home on Grandma’s wall than in a gallery setting and perhaps Smith’s work’s position the viewer to contemplate what is considered “white cube” worthy and what is not (if anything). Smith’s use of text and image, along with nontraditional materials are a tongue-in-cheek nod to the avant-garde mentality of artist’s need to push the boundaries set-up by modern art institutions.

What some would consider mementos and memorabilia, or “kitsch,” Smith rearranges and reimages to critique American consumer culture. Clichés of postwar ideology is a familiar terrain for Smith, whose career has spanned several decades in the Los Angeles area. Smith’s practice aligns with other well-known postwar assemblage artists working from found objects and images (Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns) and Conceptual Art’s process over product approach. Merging the two in the works of On Point, Smith plays with concepts of the physical nature of materials used—sword, spoon, paperback books, sunglasses, beer costars atop paintings and craftworks—and the idea that each object, found images, and texts share a common vocabulary. At first glance, Smith’s collages seem anything but nuanced notions of romance and nostalgia, more an amalgamation of absurd objects juxtaposed with bad renditions of classic scenes.  Further contemplation reveals Smith’s carefully curated assemblages as purposely obscuring a straightforward reading of each work, leaving the possibilities open to interpretation.

Works like Swashbuckler (2016), position a painted scene of the Venice Canal as a backdrop to the over-the-top faux sword reminiscent of Conan the Barbarian fame. Untitled (2016), an oil painting of a wild, untamed mountain range are set to counter the paper slippers with “Three Coins Lager” stamped on the heel and a crisp two dollar Rupee floating above the tree line. Venetian Villa (2016), the waterways of Venice are again the milieu for a newspaper advertisement slice of pizza, children’s plastic flowers and airplane, a piece of excrement (fake of course), and the details of a villa for sale, a steal at $3,195,000.00. The high and low relief of each work Smith creates, along with the allusion to narrative running through each collage, result in fertile ground for the viewer.

Alexis Smith: On Point is in collaboration with Honor Fraser Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

Alexis Smith lives and works in Los Angeles. She received her BA from the University of California, Irvine in 1970. Smith’s work is in several major art institution’s public collections including the Los Angeles Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, NY; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY.

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