Josh Smith

Spectre

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. Reflecting on the experience of creating these new works during the 2020 pandemic, the artist wrote the following text.

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Image: Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020

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Dates
September 15October 31, 2020
Artist

Mid-March, in the studio I was spending the new entirely free days messing around and wondering why I was doing painting at all. Maybe then I stopped painting entirely. I definitely started walking the neighborhoods around me. Never before would I or could I do this. Normally, taking long walks was not something I could justify squeezing into my days. Also, normally, it is far too loud and busy…. It does not make sense to walk anywhere for no reason here.

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

The first group of 10 paintings was a surprise. I was not expecting to make anything. Then these paintings came. The air was so clean. Without all the cars and the people, I could look up and see where I was…. I had not felt like that for 20 years. The colors, the edges, the relationships of things, appeared with clarity.

An untitled painting by Josh Smith, dated 2020.

Josh Smith

Untitled, 2020
Oil on linen
60 x 48 1/8 inches
(152.4 x 122.2 cm)
An untitled painting by Josh Smith, dated 2020.

Josh Smith

Untitled, 2020
Oil on linen
60 x 48 1/8 inches
(152.4 x 122.2 cm)

Previously, I mostly worked at night. It takes a toll. Then when COVID hit, because I have had so much solitary free time and no looming deadlines, painting became a light and easy activity. I changed. I was a new person. I was working happily in the daytime. Like a kid would…. A few more weeks passed, which I spent using up the remaining 5-by-4-foot stretchers I had in my studio.

An installation view of an exhibition by Josh Smith, titles Spectre, at David Zwirner in London in 2020.

Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020

Installation view, Josh Smith: Spectre, David Zwirner, London, 2020

“The paintings show the empty streets of Smith’s neighborhood, seen during his morning and evening walks through a city in lockdown. Choosing a cool palette of greens and blues for street and sky, Smith creates a forlorn environment into which he angles houses and buildings in vibrant hues of red, yellow, and pink.”

—Anne C. Collins, The Brooklyn Rail

An untitled painting by Josh Smith, dated 2020.

Josh Smith

Untitled, 2020
Oil on linen
60 x 48 1/8 inches
(152.4 x 122.2 cm)
An untitled painting by Josh Smith, dated 2020.

Josh Smith

Untitled, 2020
Oil on linen
60 x 48 1/8 inches
(152.4 x 122.2 cm)

Making large work is not my strong suit and normally it does not feel natural to me….With everything I do with art, I need to make a step. Whether I go forward or backward, I need to change something. With nothing at stake I decided to scale up the idea…. I did 6. Each one asked for another and then pulled it along.

An untitled monotype by Josh Smith, dated 2020.

Josh Smith

Untitled, 2020
Monotype on paper
36 x 26 3/8 inches
(91.5 x 67 cm)
Framed: 39 1/8 x 29 1/4 inches
(99.3 x 74.3 cm)
An untitled monotype by Josh Smith, dated 2020.

Josh Smith

Untitled, 2020
Monotype on paper
36 x 26 3/8 inches
(91.5 x 67 cm)
Framed: 39 1/8 x 29 1/4 inches
(99.3 x 74.3 cm)

The monotypes ended up explaining how the paintings in my studio were pivoting. They ultimately added another facet to the whole group of work I was making. I realized that this was a new period with these paintings. I was able to gain some looseness. Now they were coming from inside and projecting a different emotion. I accepted this and relaxed into it…. It was a matter of learning to appreciate, rather than attempting to override, the darker, more congested mood that was emerging. I let it go the way it was going naturally. This was freeing.

Now I would pull paintings intermittently and work on them on the easel. Each painting rotated between time on the easel and then time back in the line with the others. What was developing was a sort of city.

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

The cover of the book Josh Smith: Emo Jungle, published in 2020.

Published on the occasion of Josh Smith’s first exhibition at David Zwirner and ahead of his concurrent solo presentations in London and New York this month, Emo Jungle offers a comprehensive overview of the artist’s radical technicolor paintings.

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