I was fascinated by the interchange of the positive-negative aspect of [Mondrian’s] paintings with no background. I was thrilled to think that if I could liberate this quality which he confined to the rectangle into a free form, that I would be able to express the endless space. — Leon Polk Smith, 1966
Carrying a polyvalence of codes across multiple frames of meaning and structure, the canvas paintings of Leon Polk Smith—who was born in 1906 on Native American land in Oklahoma and lived in New York City from 1936 until his death sixty years later*—continue to support what Roberta Smith once called a “slightly unhinged optimism.”
The Richard Gray exhibition LEON POLK SMITH—ENDLESS SPACE brings together work from the artist’s Correspondence and Constellation series, and is accompanied by a catalog featuring an essay by Jonathan David Katz.**
Through November 23.
Richard Gray Gallery, Gray Warehouse
2044 West Carroll Avenue, Chicago.
*Smith, who died in Manhattan in 1996, was survived by his companion of forty-five years, Robert Jamieson.
**Katz’s essay “Queer Geometry: Anthropomorphism in the work of Leon Polk Smith” was included in the 2017 Munson Williams Proctor Art Institute exhibition catalog Geometry in Motion—Leon Polk Smith Works on Paper.
Leon Polk Smith—Endless Space, Richard Gray Gallery, Gray Warehouse, Chicago, September 13–November 23, 2019, from top: Constellation: Square Circle Violet Black Red, 1967, paint on canvas; Untitled (No. 7613), 1976, paint on canvas; Constellation: Lost Horizon, 1968, paint on canvas; Red Triangle, Black Square, 1968, paint on canvas. Images courtesy and © the Leon Polk Smith Foundation and Richard Gray Gallery.