Honor Fraser Gallery is pleased to announce Los Angeles based artist Alexis Smith’s first solo exhibition at the gallery, Slice of Life, from June 8 – July 27, 2013.
Slice of Life is a focused exploration of Alexis Smith’s work as portraiture, conjuring people both real and imagined from the material and linguistic cast-offs of American culture. The exhibition includes the iconic collage works that have been her signature for the past five decades, among them several recently completed pieces, and the landmark multimedia installation Past Lives, a poignant 1989 collaboration with writer Amy Gerstler. Taken collectively with Smith’s recent critically acclaimed exhibition of landscapes at Craig Krull Gallery in Santa Monica, we can take a long view of Smith’s uncanny ability to find profundity in the mundane. Here, Smith fills the galleries with resonant snapshots of people comprising a richly imagined society. She proves her mastery of the poetics of collage by creating characters from the flotsam of our daily lives, projecting our deeply rooted hopes, dreams and failures into these vignettes.
In Past Lives, a classroom provides the setting for a collection of worn children’s chairs, repositories for the promise and disappointments of their tiny inhabitants. Visual markers of institutional indoctrination surround these anthropomorphized objects, but they are ultimately trumped by the unruliness of individuals whose frailties, identified in pithy statements like “Dubbed himself a slave to love,” make for moments of identification. The installation highlights Smith’s ability to focus the power and pathos of her materials, building a whole community of young souls from these worn seats. Like the chairs, the objects in her collages are replete with the aura of lives lived, fragments that stand-in for people and their stories. She often finds such inspiration in post-WWII material culture, notably the popular diversions emanating from her lifelong home, Los Angeles: Hollywood cinema, mid-century advertising and pop music. Thrift store paintings and other artifacts with the patina of individual sentiment figure equally in the constellation of her sources. The overlaid texts and titles, whether quotes from an Oakland Raider defensive end, dialogue from Dr. Strangelove, or an evocative vernacular phrase, create vignettes replete with wry humor, bittersweet ironies and social commentary. Smith evokes everyone from children to seniors – ordinary, famous, and infamous alike – all with an exceptional sense of sly tenderness.
Smith appropriates and subverts materials in the spirit of her Dada and Surrealist predecessors, developing her own sharply witty mode of collage. While she harnesses the spirit of assemblage artists like Joseph Cornell, Betye Saar and Ed Keinholz, she shares the conceptual sensibilities and approaches to language of her contemporaries – artists such as John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Allen Ruppersberg and William Wegman. Smith’s alchemical distillation of the detritus of history and mass culture into singular, resonant arrangements finds echoes in subsequent generations of artists who continue to mine the collective desires and failures of our culture.
Smith has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including those at The University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie; the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; The Miami Art Museum; The J. Paul Getty Museum of Art, Los Angeles; and a mid-career survey at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Recently, her work has appeared in the group exhibitions Under the Big Black Sun at MOCA, Los Angeles; elles@centrepompidou, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; WACK, Art and the Feminist Revolution, also at MOCA, Los Angeles and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, MoMA, Long Island City, New York; and Sunshine & Noir: Art in L.A. 1960-1997, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark, among many others. She has also completed several major public commissions, including a mural for the Las Vegas Central Library; terrazzo floors at the Jerome Schottenstein Center at The Ohio State University, Columbus; a mixed media wall installation for The Restaurant at the Getty Center, Los Angeles; and a site specific work for The Stuart Collection, University of California, San Diego in La Jolla. She is the recipient of several NEA Fellowships, The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center residency, and an Honorary Doctorate from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Her work is included in the collections of major museums across the country, including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among many others.