Richard Smith: The Incredible Lightness Of Being

Richard-Smith-Major-Battle-1984-Acrylic-on-Canvas-c-Richard-Smith-Courtesy-of-Flowers-Gallery.-Photograph-by-Roman-Dean-1024x683Barbara Rose at The Easel:

Throughout his career, Richard Smith refused to be a theoretician or cite dogma or to become part of any given circle or style. Yes, the kites are shaped paintings– but only in their own and not any generic sense. They hang lightly, gingerly from an exposed hook, their balance, although carefully engineered, seemingly effortless. They remain fascinating because they occupy two zones of consciousness at the same time. They are neither this nor that, not entirely image nor entirely object. They are brilliantly resolved in terms of composition and color relationships, but not in terms of their status as things in the world.

Color and light, as much if not more than surface and edge, remain Smith’s principle preoccupations. Smith’s thoroughly original palette, his unexpected slightly off shades and tints and his mix of colors from the divergent worlds of fine art, textiles, advertising, cinema and nature distinguishes his painterly style. He invents colors as much as he invents shapes, something one could never say of the familiar contrasts of most hard edge or color field painting. Not until the late work produced when he moved to the heart of Renaissance Italy did Al Held create a palette as extensive and original as that of Richard Smith. Indeed, the two seem to stand apart as alchemists of color, willing to use and combine every kind of color from that of the old sand modern masters to the tones and tints of the countryside in all seasons to the artificial brash colors of industry and technology. And with all the talk about color field painting, this has neither been noted nor discussed in any meaningful way, perhaps because Held and Smith were too independent to be acknowledged by Greenberg who demanded fealty to his authority from those he promoted.

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