“Smith is perhaps the least known of the five artists included in Douglas Crimp’s 1977 Artists Space exhibition Pictures. His 2016 photographic edition entitled Night grows out of a large personal archive. A digital scan of his damaged, decades old 35mm slide of an African sculpture he collected both continues and updates the artist’s longstanding investigation into the generative capacity of photographic imagery. In Smith’s hands, the subject, the medium, and even the practice itself are revealed in the production of a new artifact.”
– Jen Mergel and Jacob Proctor
Philip Smith’s pictographic work first appeared in the historic PICTURES exhibition that led to the creation of the PICTURES GENERATION.
Smith’s work has been included in both the Whitney and Beijing Biennials and is in the permanent collection of the Whitney, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas Museum of Art, Miami Art Museum, Detroit Institute of Art, among others. His photographs were most recently shown at the Jewish Museum in NYC and acquired by the Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego.
The curious and psychologically-charged images in Smith’s paintings are drawn from found imagery in 1950s Cold War spy manuals, lingerie ads, books on mysticism and numerology, lost magic books and early genetic diagrams.
Smith’s photographs are from his 35mm film negatives that he has used as source material for his paintings.
Over time, these negatives have acquired the patina of studio use with scratches and gobs of paint. The negatives are printed as is with all their traces of damage. They function as both an image-reference back to the paintings and as photographic work in and of themselves.
Smith’s memoir, WALKING THROUGH WALLS, published by Simon and Schuster is the true story of growing up with a father who discovers that he has supernatural powers and can talk to the dead and heal the sick. The book has been optioned for television.