On June 9th, Contemporary Fine Arts in Berlin will introducing Feast of Totems, the first exhibition at the gallery by the American painter Emily Mae Smith. Just under one year since her last solo exhibition in NYC with Simone Subal Gallery (which we’ve covered), this exhibition will consist of new paintings and drawings in which, “Smith’s motifs occupy and distort art historical compositions, claiming space for feminine subjectivity.”
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Through her practice, Smith has been creating images which tell rich narratives through a series of different, seemingly disconnected figures, objects or symbols. Showing disciplined restrain from showing too much, while giving just enough to tell the story, her erotically charged and subtly sinister compositions are showcasing artist’s unique relationship with work that is aware of itself, its meaning and purpose. Along with an unexpecting mixture of imagery, the canvases are often utilizing diverse visual languages or technical approach to painting.
While leaning more towards, flat, retro looking appearance in the past, the last few exhibitions are including works with very clean references to classic art history. On a technical level, some of the key elements of her meticulous manipulation of paint are the striking color dialogues and subtle gradients, then harmoniously incorporated both into figurative oil images, or pictorial, airbrush-like creations. Placing her quirky signature characters in a traditional landscape setting, she creates a surreal atmosphere which envelops a complex narrative that regularly integrates feminist theories. Smith is on an ongoing quest to question how the figure has been rendered through art history. Giving it different forms and using a wide range of visual languages to present it, she is continuously and successfully pushing the boundaries of depiction through her work. —Sasha Bogojev
Emily Mae Smith’s Feast of Totems opens June 9 in Berlin