It has not been a lazy summer for Emily Mae Smith, making her debut with Perrotin on August 28th, right after a museum show at Le Consortium in Dijon, France, and an exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut. In her first exhibition in Japan, Avalon presents a series of work from the NYC-based painter who was featured in our Spring 2019 issue.

Smith exuberantly utilizes elements of many painting movements, such as Symbolism, Surrealism, and Pop art, while conceiving lively compositions filled with social and political commentary. Although painting for over 20 years now, Smith did not receive notable recognition until 2013. Now, fresh in the spotlight, her work still emanates the charm and ingenuity of a budding artist. In a technically rendered piece, the artist works with an exceptional selection of imagery and compositions that often relate sensitive subjects.

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"If I paint it, it becomes visible. That's how comedians work. They tell you really painful truths about the world, as a joke. They make you laugh, or reveal it in a way that brings you into their world rather than making you afraid, so you come at these issues with humor. Letting the humor come out was this big turning point, and then finding appropriate vehicles to create series helped me, too, because I could just keep digging."

Avalon features signature symbols from Smith's personal lexicon of images, bringing her full arsenal of unique tools to a deeply patriarchal society. She utilizes oil paint to mix everything from graphic elements to airbrush-like gradients, culminating in a Heretic Lace image of a garter belt holding a patterned black lace fabric infiltrated by wheat-eating mice. Behind this seemingly unrelated and innocent imagery, metaphors speak to contemporary subjects of gender, sexuality, and violence, all subtly imbued through captivating and precise method.

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Fully employing all the properties of oil paint, Smith's images gleam with hyper-vibrant hues, fuzzy softness, and immaculate use of unusual gradients. "I kind of always painted gradients since I learned how to paint with oil paint. It goes back to when I was an undergraduate at 18 years old doing live painting and always loved painting the wall that the model was in front of. That never left my work." 

Text compiled by Sasha Bogojev
Credits / クレジット
Photographer: Charles Benton
Courtesy of the artist and Perrotin.

Emily Mae Smith's solo exhibition, Avalon, opens August 28 and is on view through November 9, 2019.