Josh Smith: Emo Jungle looks at the artist’s vigorous repetition of particular motifs, illuminating his approach to painting as an exploratory medium for image production. Published on the occasion of Smith’s critically acclaimed first exhibition at David Zwirner, this catalogue features a new body of work that marks an important evolution for the artist. In these paintings, Smith sets the stage for a new mode of self-reflective commentary on image making, acknowledging that “the meaning perhaps arises in the making.”
A new essay by Bob Nickas treats the Reaper, Turtle, and Devil figures from Emo Jungle as ciphers through which to understand Smith’s work. Nickas demonstrates how these new paintings restage and personalize the artist’s more abstract earlier works and illuminates the ways in which repetition functions within Smith’s practice. With more than one hundred illustrations, this book serves as the ideal introduction to Smith’s disruptive oeuvre.
David Zwirner presented a Viewing Room of prints by Josh Smith that emphasize the artist’s ongoing experiments with process and serial imagery.
Smith is a New York–based painter who also works with collage, sculpture, printmaking, and artist books. He first became known in the early 2000s for a series of canvases depicting his own name, a motif that allowed him to experiment freely with abstraction and figuration and the expressive possibilities of painting. His work has since given way to monochromes, gestural abstractions, and varied imagery, including leaves, fish, skeletons, palettes, ghosts, reapers, and palm trees—as demonstrated in the prints. Upending the conventions of painting while simultaneously commanding a deep awareness of its history, Smith’s art is a celebratory and prolific project of experimentation and refinement.
Smith’s work is in many ways defined by the artist’s relentless and multifaceted productivity, which is reflected in particular in his embrace of print media. Each print, monotype, or artist book does not function as an endpoint, but rather as a stage in an ongoing and heterogeneous process of image production, in which motifs and materials are recycled, refined, and reimagined through a variety of processes. The prints presented here, ranging from 2006 to 2015, included lithographs and monotypes, a painterly print technique that involves a unique impression. This selection demonstrated the ways in which Smith’s graphic work employs repetition as a model for investigating and upending recurrent themes. "Each work implies that there are others," Smith writes of his practice. "I try to strip out as much of the content as possible, so the viewer does not have to reach for a meaning. You don’t have to look at one thing and try to get it. The one in front of me is the one I am looking at now."
(New York & London, November 8, 2017) David Zwirner is pleased to announce that the artist Josh Smith has joined the gallery.
Smith is a New York-based painter who also works with collage, sculpture, printmaking, and books. He first became known in the early 2000s for a series of canvases depicting his own name, a motif that allowed him to experiment freely with abstraction and figuration and the expressive possibilities of painting. His work has since given way to monochromes, gestural abstractions, and varied imagery, including leaves, fish, skeletons, sunsets, and palm trees that the artist has explored in series. Smith’s work engages in a celebratory and prolific process of experimentation and refinement—upending the conventions of painting while simultaneously commanding a deep awareness of its history.
The artist has noted, "I make art for myself, to see what it will look like. I also effectively let viewers, myself included, take or leave what they want. The message is indefinable, but the gist of it is; we are alive, and here together….Here is a group of painted poems, if you like…take a look and absorb what you want from them."
As stated by David Zwirner, "I have been following Josh’s work for some time and look forward to presenting it at the gallery. A true ‘artist’s artist,’ his work across different media conveys a playful reverence for painting, dynamically asserting its continued relevance. It’s exciting to think about his work in dialogue with the other artists we represent."
American artist Josh Smith was born in 1976 in Okinawa, Japan. Smith’s father was in the U.S. Army, and his family moved frequently, eventually settling in East Tennessee, where the artist mostly grew up. His work has been presented in numerous solo exhibitions in the United States and abroad, including at the Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany (2016); Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome (2015); the Zabludowicz Collection, London (2013); The Brant Foundation Art Study Center, Greenwich, Connecticut (2011); Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva (2009); De Hallen Haarlem, Haarlem, The Netherlands (2009-2010); Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (mumok), Vienna (2008); and SculptureCenter, Long Island City, New York (2004).
Smith’s work has also been included in important group exhibitions such as Painting 2.0: Expression in the Information Age, which opened at the Museum Brandhorst, Munich, and subsequently traveled to the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (mumok), Vienna (2015-2016); The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014-2015); The Painting Factory: Abstraction after Warhol, The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2012); ILLUMInations, the central exhibition at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011); Le Printemps de Septembre festival in Toulouse, France (2011); and The Generational: Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum, New York (2009). In 2018, Smith’s work will be presented in solo exhibitions at Massimo De Carlo, London, and Galerie Eva Presenhuber, New York.
Smith’s work is held in numerous international public collections including The Broad, Los Angeles; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien (mumok), Vienna; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Smith and has lived and worked in New York since 1998.
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“The artist’s fulgent pictures withstand all diversions and relentlessly multiply—their motifs, in his best-known series, traversing the loping letters of his own name and the gaudy facture of “expressionist” brushstrokes. If Smith previously took up the argot of abstraction, over the past year he has increasingly focused on the trappings of representation: renderings and photographs of things. But, as always, interruptions and deflections occur along the way. He often paints a leaf—a dried specimen that he picked up on a rural walk—faithfully registering its particular notches and fissures. Any number of things might happen next, but frequently he digitally photographs the painting and then enlarges and prints the image onto a grid of letter-size paper. These sheets might in turn be pasted into a collage and overlaid with posters or book covers he has made, or with newspapers or screenprints or new painterly marks. Each work at once depicts and replays his signature devices with an eidetic memory. They become a peculiar type of still life, with all the covert aggression of the genre—wresting objects, as it does, from the natural world into the pictorial one.’’ —Michelle Kuo