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Mark T. Smith: Unique Visions


Mark T. Smith: Unique Visions
Sep 24 – Oct 23, 2010

In 2009 Contessa Gallery featured a highly successful exhibition of works by Mark T. Smith, whose large paintings, sculpture and works on paper were favorably critically reviewed in Art News and other important publications. We are very excited to exhibit his newest works within our gallery, now in the context of the artistic development and inspiration.

Mark T. Smith studied art at Pratt Institute in New York and the city remained his home for about 18 years. His experience at Pratt reflected the toughness of New York and there he honed his figure drawing skills and learned what it meant to be an artist. New York City and Pratt gave birth to the maturing taste and visual language of Smith. A language that on the one hand embraces the traditions of draftsmanship, the dedication to craft, observational drawing from the master works of art history. On the other hand, however, it is the visual overload of the everyday life in a big city that had the biggest influence on Smith’s style. His imagery became infused with the purely modern influences of graffiti, hip-hop, post pop and the vast sea of advertising, commercial and designed visuals that are part of the everyday experience in New York City.

It is, of course, not new for artists to draw inspiration from the streets of New York. In the 60s it was Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns; in the 80s the tradition was continued by Basquiat and Haring who defined the rebel aesthetics of their time. Both Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring were New York’s shooting stars, who briefly, but precisely captured the downtown pulse and found inspiration in the modernist role of rebels. They were both an integral part of a thriving alternative art community that existed outside of galleries and museums, but in the downtown streets, the subways and clubs and former dance halls. Before settling down as a painter, Basquiat dabbled in graffiti, spray-painting cryptic messages on Soho walls. He is often compared to today’s hip-hop artists and was a champion of improvisation. Haring used the black advertising panels to create his chalk drawings throughout the subway system. He produced so many of them, that this seamless flow of images became a familiar part of the daily commute for many. One of the daily commuters was a young artist Mark T. Smith, who soaked up the energy of multiculturalism and the new ideas of self-expression.

With this unique combination of visual influences, combined with the classic skills of drawing and painting, Smith’s artwork grew and evolved into the recognizable style it has today. He found success early in his career, completing commissions for such clients as MTV, Pepsi, VH-1, Budweiser and Absolut Vodka (it is interesting to note that at different times Warhol and Haring also created advertising campaigns for Absolut).

Today Smith shares his residence between Miami and Washington D.C. He has participated in Art Basel several times and his works are in many major contemporary collections. His art is a map of travels and experiences, a visual diary of the artist and his time and place in the continuous development of art.

Please join us for opening reception on Friday, September 24, 2010 from 6 to 9 pm.

Mark T. Smith will give a gallery talk at 7:30 pm. Please R.S.V.P. if you would like to attend at 216.382.7800. Images will be soon available on or through the gallery. To arrange media interviews with Mark T. Smith please contact Steve Hartman at 216.956.2825.