Detail of an oil on linen painting, titled Clear Message, dated 2019.
Josh Smith

Josh Smith is a New York-based painter who also works with collage, sculpture, printmaking, and artist’s 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 project of experimentation and refinement—upending the conventions of painting while simultaneously commanding a deep awareness of its history.

Smith was born in 1976 in Okinawa, Japan. Smith’s father was in the US 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 at museums and arts institutions in the United States and abroad, including at the Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn, Germany (2016); Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Roma, Rome (2015); 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 Forever Young – 10 Years Museum Brandhorst, Museum Brandhorst, Munich (2019-2020); Trouble in Paradise: Collection Rattan Chadha, Kunsthal Rotterdam (2019); Artistic Toolbox: 1989-2017, Kunsthalle Wien, Vienna (2017); 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); and The Generational: Younger Than Jesus, New Museum, New York (2009). 

The artist has been represented by David Zwirner since 2017, and his first exhibition, Emo Jungle, took place at the gallery’s 519, 525, and 533 West 19th Street locations in New York in 2019. The artist's second solo show with David Zwirner, High As Fuck, was on view in 2020. Also in 2020, the solo exhibition, Spectre, was presented concurrently at the gallery's London location and at 69th Street in 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 has lived and worked in New York since 1998.

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January 08 – February 13, 2022

Each One of Us was Fastened to the Other is a snapshot of our complex experiences of parenthood, which inevitably include surrender and reassessment of identity. This exhibition documents our children being born and growing, their evolution, and our own. It examines, collects, and reassembles the vestiges of memory and time from these early days. And our collaboration continues.

“This work represents an ongoing document of my expanding family. When my wife and I had three children within five years, we experienced a swift change in our family dynamic and had to confront the unknown. The unremitting demands of parenthood contained joy, tenderness, vulnerability, frustration, and fear all at once. The weight of being fully needed by our children afforded us a sense of purpose, but also denied us our autonomy and individuality. As we worked to understand our intricate new roles as parents, our relationship shifted, resulting in a new connection, but also a sense of estrangement. These opposing experiences are echoed in the charged luminance of the photographs. The light reveals and enlivens the surfaces it encounters, while simultaneously acting as a tool of erasure and reorientation. The resulting pictures serve as place markers for intangible moments of elation, fear, and confusion—the dark and the light.” — Josh Smith

Undercurrents features thirty acquisitions from the past five years representing the exciting growth of the KMA’s contemporary collection through gifts and purchases. It includes a diverse selection of figurative works by Katherine Bernhardt, Richard Jolley, John Kelley, Marin Majic, Daniel Pitin, Denise Stewart-Sanabria, and Charles E. Williams; abstractions by Hamlett Dobbins, Michelle Grabner, Howard Hull, Josh Smith, and Jered Sprecher; sculptures by John Himmelfarb and Creighton Michael, atmospheric photographs by David Allee and Robert von Sternberg, and works that test the boundary between representation and abstraction by Nathan Hylden and Antonio Santin. Spotlighting artists from East Tennessee and beyond, Undercurrents attests to the wealth of new ideas invigorating international contemporary art.

Contemporary painter Josh Smith challenges notions of authorship, authenticity, originality, and an artist’s “signature style.” He often works in series featuring specific motifs—fish, tropical sunsets, skeletons, the Grim Reaper—painted on a large scale using garish color combinations and spontaneous brushwork that intentionally resists traditional expectations of artistic “finish.” Perhaps Smith’s best-known and most frequent motif is his own name, which acts both as an image and as a signifier of his identity. In these two untitled works, however, the artist uses the impression of his hand as a timeless form of artistic identity and self-reference.

A photograph of a look at Givenchy's Spring/Summer 2022 runway show by Alessandro Lucioni of Gorunway.com, dated 2021.
A look from Givenchy's Spring/Summer 2022 runway show. Photo by Alessandro Lucioni of Gorunway.com

In Givenchy’s Spring-Summer 2022 runway show, the fashion label unveiled designer Matthew M. Williams’s collaboration with Josh Smith, in which Smith’s psychedelic, vibrant paintings are interpreted into a range of garments.

“Matt showed up in my studio and we started cooking together… We made some delicious things...This collection is a miracle. The sky is the limit,” Smith said.

“Everything in the collection, from the embroideries to the trim, is all inspired and from source material that Josh created,” Williams told Vogue. “I love how honest his work is and how obsessive it is to paint the same motif over and over and over again. He has his own way, a really efficient way of working where he’s pulling from the environment around him. It’s so textural and American; that’s something that I really connect with.”

Photographed by Heji Shin, the Spring-Summer 2022 campaign will feature the collaborative garments, juxtaposing Smith and Shin’s artistic visions.

Read more about the collaboration in Vogue

Image Coming soon
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
An installation of paintings by Josh Smith dated 2020
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
An installation view of the exhibition Josh Smith: Spectre at David Zwirner London, in 2020.
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
An installation view of the exhibition Josh Smith: Spectre at David Zwirner London, in 2020.
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
An installation view of the exhibition Josh Smith: Spectre at David Zwirner London, in 2020.
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020
September 15–October 24, 2020
 
David Zwirner is pleased to present concurrent exhibitions of new work by the New York–based artist Josh Smith. On view at the gallery’s London location—the artist’s first presentation at David Zwirner London—and at 69th Street in New York, the shows will feature a new group of paintings depicting empty streetscapes from a series that the artist began in March 2020. Read a text by the artist reflecting on the experience of creating these new works during the 2020 pandemic here.
A spread from the book Josh Smith: Emo Jungle, published in 2020.

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.

A detail from an untitled painting by Josh Smith, dated 2020.
Josh Smith, Untitled, 2020 (detail)

May 21–June 21, 2020

High As Fuck presents new work by Josh Smith made during the current COVID-19 pandemic and New York City’s mandatory quarantine.

Staged by the artist on the rooftop of his studio in Brooklyn, High As Fuck is an open-air exhibition that is, by default, only accessible online by a homebound audience. The show features a new series of paintings of empty streetscapes. Depicted is Smith’s neighborhood environs as he has experienced them during early morning and nighttime walks around a locked down city.

The airplane-less, pollution-free clarity of the open sky, the lack of cars, noise, and people, revealed the nuances of absolutely everything. A whole new world of varied and unique local architecture was instantly revealed to the artist. To Smith, everything suddenly appeared clean and fresh.

Read more about High As Fuck at Artnet.

Installation view of the exhibition "Josh Smith;" at Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen in Munich

Installation view, Josh Smith; Photo: Margarita Platis, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich © Josh Smith

Under the title “Spot On,” recently acquired blocks of works by various artists will be shown in solo or double presentations in two rooms on the ground floor. The presentations will alternate during—and beyond—the anniversary year and its accompanying exhibition “Forever Young – 10 Jahre Museum Brandhorst”.

Since 2001, New York-based artist Josh Smith (b. 1976, Tennessee) has focused on a single motif or an isolated image-idea in his painting series, which he then repeats in variations. By robbing these motifs of their singularity through continuous reproduction, Smith deprives the painterly gesture of its personal element. The repertoire of subjects displayed in the collection presentation includes diverse topics such as sunsets, stop signs, and his own signature.

The expressive gesture becomes the formal means by which Smith is able to contemplate painting through painting. The exhibited collages and a series of bar stools that have been customized with Smith’s handprint in a standardized manner also reference his artistic strategy, in which the technique itself is elevated to become the central concept.

 

February 7–May 26, 2019

In the spring of 2019, the Kunsthal Rotterdam will be presenting ‘Trouble in Paradise’, an extraordinary selection of contemporary artworks from the private collection of art collector Rattan Chadha (1949, Delhi), the founder of Mexx and the hotel chain citizenM. This private collection—known as the KRC Collection—will be presented at the Kunsthal to a wide audience for the very first time. Rattan Chadha has selected works of art that reflect on human inadequacies, respond to the state of our society and inspire a sense of commitment to the world around us. At the heart of this collection is the human condition, with art that gets under your skin. From sex, drugs, and rock ’n roll to deep melancholy and abstraction. In short: Trouble in Paradise!

Trouble in Paradise will feature a selection of over seventy works—varying from paintings and sculptures to installations and video art—by internationally renowned artists such as Josh Smith, Gilbert & George, Francis Picabia, Thomas Hirschhorn, Marlene Dumas, and Jack Whitten. Also represented are many well-known Dutch artists, including Marcel van Eeden, Marc Bijl, Folkert de Jong, and Rafaël Rozendaal.

Josh Smith, Turtle, 2019 (detail)

April 25–July 19, 2019

David Zwirner is pleased to present an exhibition by Josh Smith. The show marks the artist’s inaugural solo presentation with David Zwirner since joining the gallery in 2017. On view in the gallery’s West 19th Street spaces in New York, the exhibition will debut a range of new paintings.

Here, Smith continues to refine and expand on subjects and forms he has explored throughout his career, while also pushing his work into new terrain. The artist views the exhibition as a significant opportunity to lay bare and test what his paintings can do within these new environments. The unique qualities of Smith’s work will be highlighted within the galleries, where the artist’s investigations of scale, color, and compositional resolution will be fully on display.

A monotype by Josh Smith titled Palette, dated 2015.

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."

Three paintings by Josh Smith at Frieze New York, dated 2018.

David Zwirner participated in Frieze New York with a dual presentation of new works created specifically for the fair by artists Josh Smith and Jordan Wolfson. Smith presented a new series of paintings of the Grim Reaper.

November 8, 2017–January 28, 2018

What is the role of art publishing today? How have artists adapted modes of publishing as a tool for their practice? How has the notion of artists’ publishing activity changed, given the ever-increasing amount of fairs and an ever-evolving number of book-related collections in contemporary art museums? Publishing has developed as a favorite site and medium for aesthetic and artistic experimentation. It has also become an alternative space for promoting unrestricted individual or collective discourse. The multi-part exhibition project Publishing as an Artistic Toolbox: 1989–2017 explores the potentials of publishing—in the form of books, magazines, journals, artistic interventions, and websites—as a particular medium and context to circulate information and knowledge, and to produce art.

Like a toolbox, the project is composed of different parts, sections, and components. Publishing as an Artistic Toolbox: 1989–2017 opens up and unfolds through different propositions: by material exhibits on display, through the presentation of time-based events, and through an offsite project.

A number of artists for whom publishing plays an important role in their practice have been invited to submit three books that have influenced their views or attitudes toward publishing. Each selection is accompanied by a short statement on their choice.

Participants: Cory Arcangel, Tauba Auerbach, Julie Ault, Darren Bader, Martin Beck, Maurizio Cattelan, Mariana Castillo Deball, Alejandro Cesárco, Paul Chan, Claude Closky, Michael Dean, Jason Dodge, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Peter Friedl, Ryan Gander, Dora García, Liam Gillick, Nicolás Guagnini, Karl Holmqvist, Emily Jacir, Brian Kennon, Ben Kinmont, Pierre Leguillon, Jochen Lempert, Jonathan Monk, Olaf Nicolai, Sophie Nys, Michalis Pichler, Florian Pumhösl, Max Renkel, Michael Riedel, Willem de Rooij, Yann Sérandour, Josh Smith, Heimo Zobernig

(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.

For all general inquiries, contact
Andrea Cashman +1 212 727 2070 [email protected]

For all press inquiries, contact
Julia Lukacher +1 212 727 2070 [email protected]

“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

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December 14, 2014–Apr 5, 2015

Forever Now presents the work of 17 artists whose paintings reflect a singular approach that characterizes our cultural moment at the beginning of this new millennium: they refuse to allow us to define or even meter our time by them. This phenomenon in culture was first identified by the science fiction writer William Gibson, who used the term “a-temporality” to describe a cultural product of our moment that paradoxically doesn’t represent, through style, content, or medium, the time from which it comes. A-temporality, or timelessness, manifests itself in painting as an ahistorical free-for-all, where contemporaneity as an indicator of a new form is nowhere to be found, and all eras coexist. This profligate mixing of past styles and genres can be identified as a kind of hallmark for our moment in painting, with artists achieving it by reanimating historical styles or recreating a contemporary version of them, sampling motifs from across the timeline of 20th-century art in a single painting or across an oeuvre, or radically paring their language down to the most archetypal forms.

The artists in this exhibition represent a wide variety of styles and impulses, but all use the painted surface as a platform, map, or metaphoric screen on which genres intermingle, morph, and collide. Their work represents traditional painting, in the sense that each artist engages with painting’s traditions, testing and ultimately reshaping historical strategies like appropriation and bricolage and reframing more metaphysical, high-stakes questions surrounding notions of originality, subjectivity, and spiritual transcendence.

The exhibition includes works by Richard Aldrich, Joe Bradley, Kerstin Brätsch, Matt Connors, Michaela Eichwald, Nicole Eisenman, Mark Grotjahn, Charline von Heyl, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Dianna Molzan, Oscar Murillo, Laura Owens, Amy Sillman, Josh Smith, Mary Weatherford, and Michael Williams.

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