Deitch Studios, 4-40 44th Drive, Long Island City, Queens
Josh Smith painted forty-seven paintings directly on the wall to create On The Water, his exhibition at Deitch Studios.
There was a feeling of the uncanny when one entered the space. One sensed that there was something off, not quite right. There was a brief period of perceptual adjustment when the viewer began to realize that the five by four foot rectangles, spaced evenly around the walls like standard canvases, were not actually canvases. They were paintings painted right onto the wall.
Josh Smith wanted to create a show of paintings that looked like something else. The intention was to make “art without an art object” and to take the commodity out of the art. There was nothing in the exhibition to covet or to buy. The work was only to be looked at. He wanted to “bring painting down.”
The work had a lightness and a sense of weightlessness. It also had an immediacy and a feeling of directness. The forty-seven works were completed in just three and one half days. The space between the paintings was important and Smith recalled that the most difficult part of the project was restraining himself from doing too much.
The paintings had a fluidity that reflected the flow of water on the river, visible through the gallery windows. The paintings seemed to float. The paintings were in fact all water-based. They were painted with India ink and gouache, which is like an opaque watercolor. Smith described his use of gouache and the bright palette of many of the works as “concentrated vibrant watercolor.” Unlike in oil painting, the colors do not get muddy. The colors remain sharp and crisp. In Smith’s words, “there is no power loss.” He emphasized that “everything that went into the paintings is still there.”
“Painting is like talking for me,” Smith explained. “It is how I communicate.” He thought of his five by four foot painting size as a standard template, like the stack of composition paper on a writer’s desk. “The size of the paintings fits people well,” he said. Smith thought of himself as his first viewer and claimed to remember everything that he made. In the Deitch Studios installation, one saw a whole room full of paintings at once. The viewer saw how the paintings were made, and Smith asserted that the viewers could actually make the paintings themselves. The process was deliberately demystified. Smith said that he was criticized for making too much work. In fact, he thought that he does not make enough work.
Josh Smith is known for three themes, all of which were explored in the Deitch Studios installation:
Smith looked for something with the meaning stripped out of it. “Josh Smith” is a bland name, and an ideal armature
The image was derived from an actual oak leaf that the artist kept in a cigar box in his studio. He painted it several hundred times. The leaf was softer and more “figurative” than the signature. With the leaf and the fish, he was trying to “show more heart.”
The fish was painted in three or for lines. “You cannot paint it wrong.”
On The Water was a collaborative project between Luhring Augustine and Deitch Projects.
March 8 - 11, 2018
We will present a special solo project by the artist JR.
Image: JR, Migrants, Walking New York City, 2015
April - May 2018
18 Wooster Street
76 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Monday – Friday
10 AM – 6 PM
Tuesday – Saturday
Noon – 6 PM
The gallery reopens with People in April 2018.
+1 (212) 343-7300
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