Contessa Gallery Exhibition
September 24-October 23, 2010
This show contains imagery that is about transitions, and journeys. It is rare that in the course of human events we have the luxury of time or presence of mind to reflect on a journey prior to embarking on it. This group of works examines the entire journey from the beginning moment when the commitment is made to proceed to the sometimes long, difficult but rewarding conclusion.
The show also chronicles the artist’s continued inspiration of other master’s works – whether it is the early influences of Keith Harring or Basquiat, in New York City – or masterpieces of human storytelling, works by Dante and Blake. Using this inspiration Smith continues to develop his personal visual language, working in a dizzying array of two-dimensional media, including works on paper, canvas and wood. This exhibition will mark the unveiling of two new linoleum block prints. Both of these prints are large-scale carvings.
The work manifests itself in diagrams, notes, maps, drawings and paintings. This series is dense with all kinds of information and will reward viewers with the patience to fully view a subject. One piece might be a piece of autobiography, the next an op-ed commentary simply drawn on a piece of beautiful paper, another piece a triptych summarizing a long journey.
This body of work is best viewed in three separate manners. First, there are pieces that designed to be viewed as singular thoughts within a larger context. Secondly, there are pieces that are best viewed as a collective or small grouping. This will allow the viewer to understand the genesis and development of the imagery within the context of process. Thirdly, the exhibition can be viewed as a complete body of work spanning a finite time-period within the artist, and your life.
This is the wall as you enter the exhibition. The painting is entitled – “Dark Wood”
This piece was the first work on canvas executed from the William Blake / Dante’s Inferno series. The piece “Dark Wood” represents the starting point for the journey. Inferno (Italian for “Hell”) is the first part of Dante Alighieri’s fourteenth-century epic poem Divine Comedy. It is followed by Purgatorio and Paradiso. It is an allegory telling of the journey of Dante through what is largely the medieval concept of Hell, guided by the Roman poet Virgil. In the poem, Hell is depicted as nine circles of suffering located within the Earth. Allegorically, the Divine Comedy represents the journey of the soul towards God, with the Inferno describing the recognition and rejection of sin. The poem begins on the day before Good Friday in the year 1300. The narrator, Dante Alighieri himself, is thirty-five years old, and thus “halfway along our life’s path” (Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita)—half of the Biblical life expectancy of seventy (Psalm 90:10). Mark T Smith selected to address the work at the same halfway point in his modern life (42). The poem finds him lost in a dark wood, assailed by three beasts (a lion, a leopard, and a she-wolf) he cannot evade, and unable to find the “straight way” (diritta via)—also translatable as “right way”—to salvation. Conscious that he is ruining himself and that he is falling into a “deep place” (basso loco) where the sun is silent (l sol tace), Dante is at last rescued by the Roman poet Virgil, and the two of them begin their journey to the underworld. Each sin’s punishment in Inferno is a contrapasso, a symbolic instance of poetic justice. Smith’s work is a literal depiction of the three beasts on the right side of the composition, pushing the protagonist towards to entrance to the dark woods – the place of introspection and ultimately, salvation. The protagonist is represented by the Smith icon of a bull, always the vessel for the masculine in Smith’s work. The interior of the protagonist is made of the very dark woods that the character is moving toward in the picture plane – thus the inward and outward journey begins simultaneously.
This was the second of two solo exhibition at Contessa Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio. This exhibition was entitled Unique Visions and was on view for a month. These two exhibitions at Contessa Gallery were in addition to an aggressive art fair schedule that took these works and others to Art Chicago, Art Miami, Art Hamptons and Art Palm Beach.