Even the title of Alexis Smith's show makes me smile: "Second Nature," meaning something that happens effortlessly, without trying too hard. That is exactly the secret of Smith's work in this show, which also is centered around the use and meaning of landscape in culture and history. Smith found nature scenes painted by amateurs, some are even paint by numbers kits, and attached to the surfaces one, maybe two, telling objects that extend, confound or highlight the possible meanings.
A title adds an additional layer. For example, a framed seascape with sunlight splashing across the water is titled "Flash in the Pan," a reference to the fact that the artist is now unknown. Adding to the irony, Smith attached an orange button over the sun that states Andy Warhol's oft-quoted line, "In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes." That artist may have had his 15 minutes and Smith herself had more than 15 when her work was the subject of a retrospective at the Whitney Museum in 1991. She subsequently devoted so much of her time to public art projects, including the terrazzo floor of the LA Convention Center, that her gallery shows waned and so did her visibility for a while. Two years ago, the Getty's PST reaffirmed her considerable role in contemporary art history.
Smith, a Los Angeles native who changed her birth name of Patti Anne Smith to that of a glamorous movie star, is hyper aware of the role of fame and fortune. LA is a city of artifice but this exhibition proves that even our view of nature is culturally constructed. To underscore her point, on the wall of the gallery above a number of framed views of nature, she has stenciled a quote by Henry David Thoreau: "It is in vain to dream of a wilderness distant from ourselves." To learn more, Smith will talk about her work at the gallery on May 18 at 10am, free but you must RSVP by May 11 at CraigKrullGallery.com. The show continues there through May 25. Visit the gallery at Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Avenue, Building B-3, Santa Monica, California 90404.
Alexis Smith, "The Road Less Traveled," 2013
Mixed media, 16 x 20"
Courtesy of Alexis Smith and
Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica California
To see more of Alexis Smith next month, go the Honor Fraser Gallery in Culver City, where Smith will have an exhibition of portraiture, Slice of Life, from June 8 to July 27. For more information, go to HonorFraser.com.
Banner image: Detail from Alexis Smith, Flash in the Pan, 2013; mixed media. Courtesy of Alexis Smith and Craig Krull Gallery, Santa Monica California