The Chazan Gallery at Wheeler is pleased to present the solo exhibition Don Smith: New Work from August 31 to September 14, 2017. A closing reception will be held on Sunday, September 10, 2017 from 3:00-5:00 pm. The public is invited.
Don Smith believes painting is a very particular discipline which has discrete boundaries that give it its form. It is not illustration, nor design, representation or cartooning, although these categories can and are widely used by painters in profound and diverse ways. Smith believes that the great value of painting is in its form more than in its content, no matter how important the latter might be.
Smith has been a follower of the New York School since the late 50’s. For him these painters have given his generation the most viable paradigm for painting and even today, almost 60 years later, this basic model has yet to be superseded. It was the painter Sean Scully who announced that abstract painting had a long a glorious future ahead of it.
During his formative years at the university, Smith learned from two extraordinarily capable painters, Douglas Hansen, a sound and informed Cezannist, and Ted Denyer, a New York School advocate. These two artists were consciously aware of the positions they espoused; they avoided casualness and generalizing when it came to the work of Cezanne and in particular de Kooning. Smith was very committed to these teachers and became quite conscious of the role of Cezanne as it extended its influence through Matisse and Picasso. With his rendering of planes and marks (sometimes huge) De Kooning revealed a brilliant grasp of what was important to painting, showing an acute capacity to discern the importance of the "where" more than the "what". In his lifetime search Smith has remained faithful to these standards.
The Chazan Gallery show Smith will present two types of paintings by the artist. First, what Smith calls the "bar" works that he began when he was staying in New York in 2001. At the time he was not making much headway with some ideas he had about using diamond shapes as motif so Smith decided to limit the forms to verticals only. Painting in a rapid and expressionist manner from top to bottom, certain "bars" began to emerge in a non-willful manner. As a result of this process their position, their spatial relationships and sometimes their color-value began to appear. The most important feature of this involuntary method is the concept of "finding", a key notion in Smith’s creative process, very opposed for instance to Barnett Newman’s use of 12" square floor tiles as a template to determine his "fields”.
The second group of paintings in the show includes those that Smith calls "expressionist compositions". In these works the process is not totally different from the one he uses in the "bar" pieces, except that in this case the works are the result of a drawing procedure that Smith has used over the years. He draws and erases (a better and more accurate term would scrapes), then repeats the process over and over again in a non-willful way. It is certainly a method of finding the painting and pushing it to its final conclusion, in order to achieve “completeness”, a kind of joyous “unity”. Cezanne called this phenomenon to create “parallel to nature”, nature at his greatest but most concrete sense, Smith would add.
Don Smith earned a Bachelor’s degree and an MFA degree from the University of Missouri. In 1956 he was awarded a Delta Phi Delta National Honorary Art Award, and in 1957 a University Fellowship. In 1964 he and his family moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where he began his teaching career at the Rhode Island College. Smith has taught painting, drawing, etching and the History of Asian Art. He has also written and lectured on various aspects of modern and contemporary art.
Smith has lived and worked in Europe in numerous occasions, including three residencies as a Visiting Independent Artist at Santa Reparata Stamperia per Grafica in Florence, Italy. He has also been a Visiting Artist and Lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University Summer School for Music and Visual Art, Brown University, Artist Union, Brooklyn College, Rhode Island School of Design, and Wheelock College among others.
His work is represented in over fifty public and private collections with a particularly large group held by Allan Stone Gallery in New York City. Since 1960 his paintings have been shown in more than sixty competitive and invitational shows, both solo and group.
Equinox Video has also produced a video documentary on the painter’s work and ideas. The artist currently resides with his wife, Joyce, in Johnston, RI where he maintains a professional studio.