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.