Explore a Selection of Keith Smith’s Work
Book Number 82, Keith Smith at Home, 1982
Artist’s book with gelatin silver prints, colored ink washes, pen and ink, and decorative paper bordersSmith describes this as “a book of moods.” Through the sequence of deceptively straightforward photographs— taken primarily in and around the artist’s home—Smith shows how rooms can be storytellers and repositories of emotions, ideas, and memories. Some spaces and vignettes repeat, but the artist colored each iteration differently and moved or replaced their framed pictures and bric-a-brac with others. Are we seeing the passage of time or carefully arranged altars to a particular person or moment in time? Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York
Self-Portrait, November 26, 1969
Electrostatic print (photocopy [3-M Color-in-Color]) with red ballpoint pen and hand stitchingSmith delighted in making self-portraits by pressing his face onto the surface of a Color-in-Color copier, yielding pictures with distorted facial features, light flares, and deep shadows. Whether by accident or design, a green line bisects his face in this example, isolating his left ear. A recurring motif in his work, the ear may symbolize the artist’s felt connection to Vincent van Gogh. Courtesy of the artist
Book Number 141, May 1989
Artist’s book with cut gelatin silver print, colored ink and watercolor washes, graphite, and machine stitching; folded, snake formatThis is one of Smith’s one-picture books, made from a photomural print of his friend Philip Lange’s torso. Smith hand-colored the print, then cut and folded it in a snake format, a bookbinding technique devised by the artist’s partner, Scott McCarney. As the pages unfold—back and forth, row by row—from a concise, square stack, they eventually form the meter-square image shown here. Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2015-51-1
Aeros Alpha and Aatis, October 4, 1981
Gelatin silver print with colored ink washes and decorative paper borderSmith’s family, friends, and lovers appear again and again in his work. These portraits are not mere documentary records, and they do not always reference a particular moment or memory. Rather, they clarify the close bond between artist and subject. They make visible the full range of emotions—love, longing, nostalgia, confusion, joy—in intimate relationships. This print depicts his teacher and lifelong friend Aatis Lillstrom with his children Aeros Keith and Alpha, who are Smith’s godchildren. Courtesy of the artist
Book Number 11, Up , 1969
Artist’s book with ballpoint pen, graphite, and porous point (felt tip) pen on graph paper; film-positives; and collaged and cut gelatin silver printsConsisting primarily of self-portraits drawn from dreams, this book features imagery on transparent and opaque pages. As the transparent pages are turned, the underlying imagery from adjacent pages remains visible. In the two spreads shown in this slide show, rainbow zigzags, snakes, and a blank face interact with an image of a bearded man in profile on a transparency. The snakes are perhaps a nod to the mythical snake-haired Medusa, a motif that recurs throughout the book. Courtesy of Bruce Silverstein Gallery, New York
Watch: Book Number 91, a string book, 1982
Artist’s book with cutouts, punched holes, and stringThis string book grapples with key elements of Smith’s work: movement and pacing. As the pages are turned, strings pull against the paper, growing taut and then slack as they weave through complicated configurations until they finally give way to an arrangement of punched holes. The “image” Smith presents includes the shadows cast as the pages turn. Though it contains no photographs, he considers this a photographic book since it deals with light, shadow, focus, motif, and sequence. Artwork courtesy of the artist and Philip Zimmermann. Video produced by the Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2018
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