Thursday, October 06, 2005

Expressionist Girlie Action

Yaley Zak Smith’s solo show at Fredericks Freiser Gallery is predominantly comprised of stunningly rendered portraits. His subjects are young women with multicolored hair and tattoos, some clothed and some nude, with the sexpot stares of sullen Suicide Girls. Turns out they are Suicide Girls – Charlie (see painting at left), Voltaire, Sawa, and Raven, to be exact – and the angsty muses of his series titled “Girls in the Naked Girl Business”. Smith utilizes what the New York Times might call the “punk rock aesthetic”. There is no room for broad washes of color or negative space – every inch of surface is filled with eloquent drawing, vibrant pattern, tacky globs of paint. Smith’s nervous line and excessive patterns hark back to Schiele’s grotesque prostitutes and Klimt’s intricate textiles, while his unmistakably contemporary use of watercolor is similar to comic capital-A artists like Scott Hampton (Hellraiser) and Mike Dringenberg (Sandman). The most stunning work in this intimate show are the smaller drawings, where his impeccable line work is visible. Smith's previous work is decidedly more conceptual, though perhaps equally self-aware - particularly his 755-drawing contribution to the 2004 Whitney Biennial, One Picture for Every Page of Thomas Pynchon's Novel Gravity's Rainbow. His resume combined with his delicate handling of such wolfish subject matter, leaves one wondering whether Zak Smith is a young visionary with his ear to the underground - or the Merlin Bronques of the art world, just having a time of it.

Smith's pictures are up at Fredericks Freiser Gallery through October 29. They can also be seen in Smith’s book, out last month, titled Zak Smith: Pictures Of Girls from DAP Press.

1 comment:

Zak Smith said...

I could nitpick a few facts in this but I'm not here to do that--I'm here to say this:

That was by far the most eloquent and coherent review of my stuff I've ever read--and I've been reviewed by the heaviest and the scariest.

Somebody should hire you.

-zak