For the latest Viewing Room, New York–based artist Josh Smith debuts several new groups of monotypes on the occasion of his solo exhibition Emo Jungle, on view through June 15 at David Zwirner in New York.
Smith’s extensive practice, which encompasses printmaking, painting, drawing, and sculpture, is distinguished equally by its intense hues, calligraphic brushstrokes, and unapologetically serial subjects. Sharp, disparate figures like devils, roosters, or fish are suspended idly amid visceral patterns and colorscapes. Grim reapers—personifications of death—hover against vast backdrops, donning black robes with scythes in hand. The artist’s familiar motifs are rendered across both his canvases and his prints.
These unique monotypes, made through a refined printing process that involves pressing a painted plate against paper, constitute another mode through which Smith explores the nuances and possibilities of his imagery. The resulting works are intricate, variegated surfaces in which the pressed layers of paint interact with the material qualities of the various cotton and plastic papers he selects, resulting in diverse effects.
"The impenetrable boundary separating 'originals' from 'reproductions,' which has compromised painting ever since screen-printing was introduced in the sixties, is undermined from within by Smith’s proliferation of originals. This strategy allows the artist to emancipate himself from the hierarchical value system that distinguishes major from minor works."
—Anne Pontégnie, as quoted in "Painter Without a Pause," 2009
Image: Josh Smith, Reaper, 2019 (detail)